The Institute for Politics and Society in a cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland organized a public debate on the topic “Schengen – What is Wrong and How to Fix it?”
Anna Sochańska, Deputy Director, European Policy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland, Irena Krasnická, Special Envoy on Migration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic, Benjamin Tallis, Researcher, Institute for International Relations, Czech Republic and Daniel Anýž, Publicist, Czech Republic kindly accepted our invitation to debate. The debate focused on the Schengen crisis, which is only one of many crisis which is EU currently facing. The situation regarding Schengen is very turbulent and can change from day to day as the development takes different turns and new ideas and views on how to solve the crisis and its causes arise. An example of that can be the idea of mini Schengen which was presented by the Dutch government not such a long time ago. This idea is long time forgotten and in the meantime other disputes have arisen. At the moment there is an ongoing discussion about Greece potentially being excluded from Schengen as they are blamed to fail to effectively protect the outer border. On a similar note a new proposal about closing the northern Greek border to Macedonia is on the table and EU plans to cooperate more closely with this nonmember state. As US spends about 30 billion dollars per year to protect its outer border and Jan Macháček is asking, should not we do the same?
Anna Sochanska was the first one to give her opinion on what is wrong with Schengen but also to suggest how to fix it. She mentioned that one of the main issues is that currently Frontex has very limited mandates and limited resources. Frontex e.g. does not even have access to Schengen information system, which could give the agency a valuable insights and help them significantly to do their job better. Another big problem is that important decisions which need to be taken on EU level often come too late. This is perceived as a key issue by many but at the same time many member states are against the growing power of European commission. The decision to relocate migrants was not in her opinion very well thought through either. She also says no to permanent relocating mechanism as it might be another pull factor for the migrants. Security first! We need to create functional hot spots where all people can be identified and distinction between economical migrant and people in real need can be made. The priority is also to lead dialogue with third countries and fight against the criminal network. Poland is obliged to take in 6 000 migrants based on the quota agreement. They have already taken 400 people and 900 more refugees from Lebanon. Poland sent 30 officers to Hungary and Slovenia and 80 polish officers are serving in Frontex. The membership in Schengen and EU is of fundamental value for Poles and as they are very well aware of all the positive effects they are ready to fight for its preservation.
Irena Krasnická opened up with statement that the image of divided EU is not correct. As a matter of fact, we agree on many more things than we disagree. There is not so many things wrong with Schengen. What is wrong is the Dublin Agreement and what we expected from it. The original idea was to prevent people from asylum „shopping“ but these regulations failed as common asylum policy which should have followed never materialized. We should enable people to come legally to Europe. The problem is not that people come but how they come. And sometimes also who comes… I don’t like the blame game either, we speak about integration of immigrants, but we need integration of EU countries. We don’t make our people to feel European and that is why we are in this situation. We lack sense of belonging as the blame game between West and East, south and north shows and that is what is weakening Europe the most.
Banjamin Tallis emphasized that Europe actually needs people to come and that they should be welcomed and perceived as an opportunity which both sides can profit from. Furthermore, we overdo talk about crisis. We should focus more on what we value, why we value it and why we want to keep it. We should not forget that Europe is currently one of the few places where people have a chance for better life than anywhere else in the world. We should also be cautious because the talk about security can lead us to the wrong path. We need to balance security and freedom and we should not entrust our migration policy into protection agencies. Schengen is at threat but not by the refugees, but by attitude of some states. The standpoint of president Miloš Zeman is not acceptable if we want to save Schengen. On the other hand, the prime minister Sobotka has the spirit for saving it. Schengen might have limited time left but Sobotka shows that change and a positive shift is possible.
Daniel Anýž stated that losing Schengen would be a disaster. The Dutch president also claimed that there is 8 weeks left for Schengen but only time will show what is really going to happen.