AP

France has not closed its borders, but rather reimposed border controls. This is normal security protocol, but also a worrying sign for the future of a free Europe.

France is reeling from a series of deadly attacks in Paris that left at least 127 people dead and scores more injured. Parisians are recovering today from the carnage visited upon multiple sites across the city Friday night.

In the wake of the attacks, French President François Hollande reimposed border controls. This is both a normal security protocol and a worrying sign for the future of a free Europe.

France is part of the Schengen Area, a collective of 26 countries that enjoy free travel at joint borders. It’s a somewhat confusing pan-European grouping that predates the European Union. It includes 22 of the 28 EU states plus some non-members. The four nations of the European Free Trade Association are part of the Shengen Area, but Ireland and the United Kingdom opted out.

(European Commission)

Part of the Schengen Agreement allows member nations to routinely reinstall passport and immigration border controls at times of heightened national security. In fact, France was already planning to reinstate border controls later in the month, in advance of the UN climate conference being held in Paris on November 30–December 11. So the Schengen Area is working the way it’s supposed to: During emergencies, the framework allows nations to retreat to stricter border controls without abandoning the dream of free movement.

But the migrant crisis is putting the Schengen visa under considerable strain. In September, Germany reimposed controls along its border with Austria. Sweden reintroduced border controls just days ago in response to unprecedented immigration levels. With 10,000 migrants coming into the country every week, Sweden has the highest per-capita immigration in Europe.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has described free movement as “a unique symbol of European integration.” He has also said that Europe needs an overhaul to its disparate immigration policies if it is going to preserve freedoms such as open internal borders. The deadly mass killings in Paris will not help matters: Italy has already reintroduced border controls since the attacks, with the heaviest security falling along its border with France.

So France has not closed its borders. International travelers will still be able to arrive or depart by train or plane as normal, albeit with additional security delays. But the borders of Europe may be closing in worrying ways.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

    American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.

  2. A Mormon temple with two spires, at dusk.
    Design

    Understanding the New Mormon Temple in Rome

    Despite its olive trees and piazza, the new temple will look familiar to American eyes.

  3. An illustration of a private train.
    Transportation

    Let’s Buy a Train

    If you dream of roaming the U.S. in a your own personal train car, you still can. But Amtrak cuts have railcar owners wondering if their days are numbered.

  4. A photo of the interior of a WeWork co-working office.
    Design

    WeWork Wants to Build the ‘Future of Cities.’ What Does That Mean?

    The co-working startup is hatching plans to deploy data to reimagine urban problems. In the past, it has profiled neighborhoods based on class indicators.

  5. Solar panels on the tiled roof of a two-story house.
    Environment

    Solar Batteries Are Winning Over German Homeowners

    Solar home storage has morphed from a niche product in Germany to one with enormous mainstream potential.