The main idea behind European unity is the free movement of citizens of all the European Union member states that adhere to this policy. It secures the right to any kind of movement, for any reason – be it work, education, medical etc.
The creation of the European Union and the Schengen Area were important and fundamental steps in this direction.
Allowed to move freely, European citizens from different countries are able to get to know each other better. It also gives meaning to the word Solidarity. But the climate changed, and rather quickly.
First, there were the French and the Britons who opposed the idea of free movement. They considered it a threat to their nationals’ jobs. For the French, the dangers were represented by the Poles and for the Brits it was the citizens of the new member states in the Balkans, mainly Bulgaria and Romania.
In Italy, the situation was worse as parties marked by racist sentiments secured an important electoral presence.
The sentiment of xenophobia against the citizens of the European Union was exploited by ambitious and unscrupulous politicians.
As a result, a considerable part of the European public was educated in intolerance, xenophobia, racism and hate for anything different.
The first immigration waves in the 1990s provoked similar sentiments of intolerance and a new threat, Islam. This created a new kind of mass sentiment: Islamophobia.
The Dublin II Regulation was a defensive measure for the rich countries of the North, but it was not a solution for the high numbers of immigrants that were blocked mainly in Greece and Italy.
Greece and Italy were abandoned by the EU – left on their own to find a solution. They were considered fully responsible for any failures.
The coastlines and the geographic location of the two EU member states make it particularly difficult to find a solution.
On the other hand, the policy of fences is not a new phenomenon for Europe. Spain was the first EU member state to build a fence in Ceuta, its territory in Africa. When the fence was erected many in Europe considered it a successful solution.
The second fence was created along the Evros River, which is the natural border between Greece and Turkey. It is a preferred path of human smugglers. Although not successful, this fence was also hailed by many in Europe.
The ‘invasion’ in some European member states by thousands of refugees and migrants has fuelled racist and xenophobic tendencies rather than suitable solutions.
The creation of fences along Hungary’s border with Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, although condemned by the majority of European democratic parties, received positive support by a considerable part of Hungarian society. The same xenophobic sentiments were expressed by Slovaks, Czechs, Poles and the citizens of the Baltic States.
Now there are two issues that can further aggravate this already ugly situation.
The first is that Latvia is considering the creation of a fence on its border with Belarus because many immigrants from Asia are using it to pass into the country. This means the ‘invasion’ will not be stopped with fences along the Evros River, Ceuta of Hungary. New paths can be opened and used at any time. After all, Europe is surrounded by a lot of poverty and misery.
The second issue is that a police union in Germany has proposed the creation of a fence along the border with Austria.
Under different circumstances the above would be considered a bad joke. But, we already experienced the closing of the German borders with Austria, Austrian borders with Hungary and the Danish borders with Germany.
The above proposals, if accepted and realised will put an end to the very core of the European idea: the free movement of its citizens.