Essay on A Dutchman Driving

Essay on A Dutchman Driving

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FOR a Dutchman driving his caravan to the Costa del Sol, the only thing to remind him that he had crossed borders used to be the successive text messages welcoming him to Belgium, France and Spain. That was before this summer’s migrant crisis—and last weekend’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Now the liberty to roam the 26 countries in the border-free Schengen zone, which Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, calls a “unique symbol of European integration”, is under greater threat than at any point since its inception.

Calls to curb borderless travel were already growing louder in August after Ayoub El Khazzani, a Moroccan national, carried an assault rifle across two borders on a Thalys train before attacking fellow passengers. In September Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, warned that without agreement on how to handle refugees they would grow louder still. The overwhelming scale of migrant arrivals led several countries, including Hungary, Slovenia, and ultimately Germany and Austria, temporarily to reintroduce border controls. Sweden, then getting 10,000 new arrivals each week, joined them on November 12th. The Netherlands has doubled its spot checks in the border area since September. And Denmark’s announcement that it will introduce electronic number-plate scanners at border crossings strains the limits of the Schengen framework.

The attacks in Paris have changed the debate. Ever since it became clear that the terrorists had strong links to Belgium, Peugeots coming over the border from Brussels have seemed just as great a threat to France as planes flying in from Damascus. As investigators retrace the movements of the terrorists and their weapons, more intra-European links will surely be uncovered, ...


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... since the bombings, 70% of Dutch people say the borders should close.

Fear and loathing are not the sole response. On November 15th Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, urged the press and society not to link the attacks to the refugee debate. The dominant line in talk shows in Germany and much of western Europe is that the refugees are victims of Islamic State’s terror, not perpetrators. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, an unlikely but necessary ally of Mrs Merkel’s, said at last week’s G20 summit that treating refugees as terrorists would be “evading humanitarian responsibility”. One important meeting was Mr Erdogan’s with Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, on November 18th; their shared border is among the most porous on Schengen’s periphery. Until the zone’s external borders are secured, freedom of movement inside it will be in danger.

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