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Schengen

Towards the conclusion of “Schengen” type agreements between the Euro-BRICS

 

The Schengen agreement guarantees the right of free movement for people within the “Schengen Area” by the absence of internal border checks, counterbalanced by reinforced external border checks according to a common standard agreed upon by all countries signatory to the agreement.

This standard includes four sections :
. reinforcement of external border checks (obligation to verify anyone crossing the border-prohibition against organizing only spot-checks)
. common visa policy
. common asylum policy
. reinforced police, legal and customs cooperation.

The European Union’s Member States are currently parties to the Schengen agreement; except for the United Kingdom and Ireland, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Thus one can see that the participation in the Schengen agreement by no means requires European Union membership.

The agreement was not made to grant more freedom to the signatory states’ nationals, but as a reaction to enormous tourist flows between the first five signatories (Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands) which made effective border controls between these countries impossible. The governments made the choice to substitute reinforcement of external border checks accompanied by police, customs and legal cooperation, reinforced with occasional random checks and thus ineffective on internal borders. Thus one could say that the rationale behind Schengen is the concentration of resources on external checks.

The Schengen Area is, then, the consequence of the increase in travellers’ numbers to the extent of making “traditional” border controls unworkable.
Thus Switzerland was almost forced to participate, because it could no longer, as a transit country hemmed in by the European Union,
claim to control its borders effectively.

As a result, nothing stops us from considering a similar development within the Euro-BRICS. From the moment that regular (traveller) flows increase in such a manner that border checks become too onerous for countries, it would certainly be an opportune moment to consider if the signature of such Schengen style free movement agreements wouldn’t be a means of better controlling these flows.

The Kaliningrad enclave even enables us to consider a slow and gradual development. In a certain fashion it could constitute the laboratory of progress towards a “Schengen area” between Euro-BRICS. Currently, people in this enclave have to acquire a Schengen visa to travel in the Schengen Area. Given the geographical location, this is a source of constant tension between the Schengen states and Russia and a constraint on these people’s freedom. The small number of people makes the enclave an ideal scenario to “test” the feasibility of such an approach.

The process should follow a rationale of granting privilege and evaluation at several stages :
Initially, people in the Kaliningrad enclave would be granted multiple and unlimited Schengen visas. After a few years, the Schengen states would evaluate the recipients’ compliance with the rules. If there is little abuse, the next step follows: The Schengen states would lift the visa requirement for people in the enclave.

Several years after further evaluation, if there is still little abuse the next steps follow, always at a cadence of grant and evaluation:
. Grant a multiple visa system for all Russian nationals – Evaluation
. Suppression of obligation of visas for all the Russian nationals – Evaluation
. Abolition of visa requirements for all BRICS nationals – Evaluation

Finally the ultimate step follows :
. Assessment of the number of travellers crossing Euro-BRICS borders to determine if the completion of “Schengen type” agreements would make it possible to make the control of these flows more effective at a lower cost.

It should always be remembered that the Schengen Agreement, contrary to the generally accepted idea, doesn’t weaken the level of bordersecurity and controls, but simply adapts control methods to respond to the new situation of traveller flows so large that traditional controls have become unworkable. There are even some who say that the measures envisaged by the Schengen Agreement increase the level of controls to which travellers and also all people in the Schengen Area are subjected.

That, in addition, they create a feeling of belonging to the same area, sharing a common destiny, that the signatory countries are “friendly” states isn’t the sought-after goal, but a very good side-result.

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