Europe's unbounded Schengen joy

You are here

Europe's unbounded Schengen joy

Login or Create an Account

With a account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


At the stroke of midnight nine eastern European countries joined the European Union's Schengen treaty, which allows Europeans to travel from one Schengen country to another without border formalities. The EU "Schengen zone" now extends from Russia and the Ukraine all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

German chancellor Angela Merkel described the opening of Germany's borders with Poland and the Czech Republic as an historic occasion. She and the Polish and Czech prime ministers attended a special ceremony today as the border was opened at the "three country corner" where the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland intersect. Thousands of Europeans were up early to enjoy their new freedom to visit a neighboring EU country without lengthy delays at the border because of passport formalities.

The Schengen zone now encompasses 24 of the EU's 27 members, representing 400 million people. The extension of the Schengen zone eastward is another milestone in the slow but sure march to European unity and a further confirmation of the unification of Europe following the end of the Cold War.

Each Schengen country has the responsibility to provide border controls for its non-Schengen external borders. In exchange for fulfilling this obligation, there are no border or immigration controls on the movement of people within the Schengen zone when they travel from one Schengen country directly to another. Some Germans have expressed concern that opening Germany's eastern border to its EU neighbors will lead to an increase in crime. German interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble disagrees. The Schengen treaty allows each country's border police to undertake on-the-spot passport examinations in an 18 mile zone along the border. According to Schäuble, the allowance will more than compensate for formalities at the border crossings themselves. In addition, the new Schengen members in eastern Europe are eager to demonstrate to older Schengen members in western Europe that their police and border patrols are capable of guarding Schengen's exterior borders. Electronic cooperation among the police juridictions within Europe has also improved continuously in recent years, enabling closer monitoring of criminal activities.

Schäuble and other leaders believe that the extension of the Schengen zone will provide an economic benefit to border areas previously hindered in their development by border formalities. The Schengen treaty facilitates the movement of people and goods wthin the Schengen zone, which is why the treaty's extension eastward is being called another milestone in freedom for EU citizens.

For Russians, however, the Schengen border could be a problem. According to the "Pravda" newspaper, "the visa issue restricts the life of millions of people. Lithuania and Poland joining the Schengen treaty serve as examples, since it is now considerably more difficult to travel by car from Kaliningrad into the Russian heartland. The EU and its individual members will use the visa situation to put pressure on Russia." Russia is currently negotiating in Brussels on easing visa requirements for Russians desiring to visit the EU.

With the Schengen zone now extending across the breadth of Europe, Germany is firmly entrenched as a key geographic center of the new Europe.