What the end of the Schengen free travel zone could mean

Today there was a quite disturbing, yet quite realistic story that carried on Reuters and RT about the potential end of the Schengen free travel zone in Europe. In it the European Union Commissioner said that unless meaningful progress was made on addressing the challenges posed by the huge influx of migrants from Africa in the next 10 days, the Schengen zone would completely disintegrate.

The consequences were this to happen are immense. The impact will be global. There will be few places that will be spared the economic and political fallout. One estimate of the financial losses that Europe will incur is €1.4 trillion. Outside of Europe there will be costs as well. It is estimated that the impact financially on the U.S. and China combined could be anywhere between €91 billion and €280 billion. For countries like New Zealand that suggests potential costs in the millions of Euros (N.Z.$ currently €0.61).

For the average person travelling to Europe, this means that the cold looking bygone Cold War era border crossings, which have lain dormant for a generation may be reactivated as governments struggle to find a solution. It might mean visa requirements change virtually overnight – the Schengen visa that one might have applied for to go travelling in Europe might suddenly be not worth the paper it was printed on. Indeed border crossing check points have already been set up in several countries in southeast Europe where the influx is now beyond the ability of individual governments to manage. Thus, in the space of the next ten days, if the progress is not good enough, the clock on Europe’s development could be set back decades.

What is more disturbing though is the high probability that the European Union would start to unravel. Member nations all over the continent are being stretched beyond their means by the huge flood of refugees pouring in from Africa. Right wing parties in many countries are experiencing unprecedented growth in membership and in some cases unprecedented growth in their political clout in the Houses of Representatives in individual nations.

So, with the Schengen zone possibly into the last ten days of its life before it starts to disintegrate, I can only hope those with Schengen zone visas make the most of them. And that Europes’s politicians work out a deal before 7 March 2016.

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