The Schengen Crisis and the End of the “Myth” of Europe Without Borders

  • Birte Wassenberg


The European Schengen crisis, spurred off by a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe and an unexpected increase in migration across the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 led to a re-questioning of the functions of borders in European integration. The ideal of a “Europe without borders” has been particularly affected. Indeed, the re-introduction of border controls in several Member States of the European Union (EU) symbolized a new obstacle to free circulation in Europe and the “separation” function of the border seems to have strengthened. This contribution will argue that the Schengen crisis has not put an end to “Europe without borders” in terms of free movement of goods, services, capital and people. It will claim instead that there has been a construction of a “myth” of “Europe without borders” with a different meaning, i.e. in which “Europe without borders” is not a means to an objective but an objective in itself, that of an EU where all borders are assumed to have negative functions and should therefore disappear. The Schengen crisis helps to unravel this “myth” by demonstrating that borders can also have positive functions, that they persist within the EU and that their control remains a competence of the EU Member States. Adopting a less mystified view of “Europe without borders” and assessing its origin and development from a disciplinary approach in Contemporary History, helps to better explain the processes of de- and re-bordering in Europe and their relationship to European integration.