13. September 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Germany border crackdown deals blow to Schengen system · Kategorien: Deutschland, Österreich · Tags:

Quelle: The Guardian

Decision to re-establish national border controls will shock the rest of the EU and may spur it towards a more coherent strategy on refugees

Germany’s decision to re-establish national border controls on its southern frontier with Austria deals a telling blow to two decades of open travel in the 26-nation bloc known as the Schengen area.

The abrupt move to suspend Schengen arrangements along the 500-mile border with Austria will shock the rest of the EU and may spur it towards a more coherent strategy to deal with its migration crisis. Yet there will be little sympathy for Berlin from Hungary, Italy or Greece, which are bearing the brunt of the mass arrivals of people from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

The German decision came as EU interior ministers prepared to meet for a crucial session on the issue. There are deep splits over Brussels’ campaign, backed by Berlin, to establish a new compulsory quota system to distribute asylum seekers across the EU on a more equitable basis.

Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, announced that while Austria was the focus of the new border controls, all of Germany’s borders would be affected. As the EU’s biggest country straddling the union’s geographical centre, Germany is the lynchpin of the Schengen system. It borders nine countries. Without Germany’s participation, Schengen faces collapse.

It was the second unilateral decision by the German government in a fortnight. Previously, without telling Brussels, Budapest or Vienna in advance, Berlin announced that given the concentration of refugees in Hungary it was waiving European rules known as the Dublin regulations, which stipulate that people must be registered and lodge their asylum applications in the first EU country they enter.

The decision prompted a sudden surge into German of Syrians looking for safe haven. It elicited huge praise for Germany’s humane approach, but ultimately it has proven unmanageable. Sunday’s decision to suspend the open borders reverses that move.

It will create a backlog of people in Austria and Hungary, with the latter also introducing a stiff new closed-borders regime, effectively criminalising most new arrivals as illegal migrants. Reports from a camp on the Hungarian-Serbian border at the weekend described a military operation, with helicopters constantly buzzing overhead and police and dogs patrolling a razor-wire border fence. A lack of running water and lavatories in the camp made for wretched conditions.

Austria’s chancellor, Werner Faymann, accused Hungary’s hardline anti-immigrant government of Nazi-like activities. In northern Europe, Stockholm and Copenhagen traded barbs after the Danish authorities allowed refugees to leave for Sweden without proper documents.

The acrimony in Scandinavia, central Europe and, increasingly, inside Germany itself sets the scene for recriminations when the interior ministers meet to ponder their options.

“Monday’s extraordinary council of interior ministers is so important. We need swift progress on the commission’s proposals now,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission’s president, after speaking to Angela Merkel on Sunday.

“The objectives of our efforts must be to help ensure that we can go back to the normal Schengen system of open borders between Schengen member states as soon as feasible.”

Berlin is a keen supporter of the commission’s scheme, but it is fiercely resisted in eastern and central Europe, where countries have little history of accommodating asylum seekers.

The German decision to erect border controls may frighten the east Europeans into concessions, given that Schengen membership is one of the most highly prized aspects of EU membership for the former Soviet bloc countries, whose travel rights were severely restricted until 1989.

Even the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, the most outspoken opponent of liberal immigration policies in the EU, has said that “for Hungarians, Schengen is freedom”.

The system, however, is under strain as never before. About 63,000 asylum seekers have entered Bavaria from Hungary and Austria this month, more than the total for all of last year. More than 12,000 arrived on Saturday and thousands more on Sunday.

Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor and Social Democrat leader, lambasted “European inaction” on the crisis and said Germany had reached the limits of what it could do.

De Maiziere said the border controls would stop people entering Germany without valid travel documents, putting the onus on transit countries to process them more consistently and piling the pressure on other EU countries before Monday’s meeting.

“Germany is facing up to its responsibilities, but the burden has to be spread in solidarity,” he said.

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