Lingering Effects: Mobility and Border Control in a Post-Pandemic Europe

My take on the future of border control in a post-pandemic Europe. Cue in the title: there will be lingering effects…

Of borders, bubbles, and viruses

The pandemic unleashed in the early months of 2020 has affected border controls in Europe and beyond in ways that were until recently unimaginable. New territorial configurations regulating cross-border mobility have emerged, the most notorious being the “travel zone,” the “corridor,” and the “bubble”. These arrangements represent an instance of “excised territories” carved out of existing spatial configurations within or between jurisdictions – whether international (e.g., the corridor linking Spain’s Balearic Islands with selected European countries, or the “travel bubble” among Baltic states) or sub-national (e.g., the twinning of border regions within Europe with similar color codes, or outside Europe, Canada’s “Atlantic bubble,” which includes three contiguous provinces in the East of the country). While the reliance on “corridors” indicates the instrumental nature of these arrangements (as spaces connecting one location to another), the use of “bubbles” implies a more explicitly social dimension. As a sociological term, “bubble” describes the relationships between the outside world and an individual or group. “Social bubbles” evoke a sense of coziness, predictability, and protection, but also malleability and flexibility, as they can expand or shrink depending on the circumstances. When applied to a particular geographical area, this phenomenon is referred to as a “tourist bubble”: a site where tourists are shielded from the locals (completely or in part) to maintain a sense of homeliness or prevent them from disturbing the residents. In the case of the current pandemic, however, the bubble represents an uncanny reversal of its original meaning. Indeed, pandemic bubbles do not protect tourists from locals. Instead, these arrangements shield the locals from everybody else. They also evoke some of the negative connotations of social bubbles, specifically the insularity that the discouragement of interactions with people with different opinions and narrow mindedness entails—the type of dynamics encapsulated in the “echo chamber effect” on social media. They also evoke hostility against those who breach a bubble, as attested by the string of recent “license-shaming” incidents against non-local drivers in some of these bubbles. The tracking of incomers also creates a sense of siege mentality, even panic. The sense of lightness that should accompany the term “bubble” seems to be lost in the metaphor. Indeed, terms such as “perimeter” or “fence” might be more apt to describe these phenomena…

Europe’s borders in 2020: a visual review

The end of an extraordinary year, affecting every corner of the world, including European borders! But it has not been just about Covid. Brexit and the Mediterranean once again make it into the list, among other border-related events across the Old Continent. Below you will find a visual review of 12 months to remember…

January

The journeys through Europe’s southern border continue…

Photo: Migrants on an overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean Sea on January 10, 2020 | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/Santi Palacios

February

Violence at Europe South-Eastern border

Photo: Signs of violence on an asylum seeker in northern Turkey at the Greek border.  Belal Khaled

March

Covid hits, and Europe’s internal borders shut down (the temporary barriers series)

A temporary border barrier between Belgium and the Netherlands. Nico Vereecken / Photonews via Getty

Another temporary border barrier between Belgium and the Netherlands. Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

A temporary border barrier in Poland. Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty

Check point at a Czech Republic border. Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty

A temporary border check between Poland and Germany. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty

A makeshift border between Germany and the Czech Republic. Hendrik Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty

A temporary border barrier between Denmark and Germany. Frank Molter/picture alliance via Getty

The Vatican City-Italy border. REMO CASILLI/Reuters

(Sources for Temporary barriers series: Thomas Pallini, “Photos show the emergency makeshift borders European countries have erected in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19”, Business Insider, 4 April 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-european-borders-closed-in-response-to-covid-19-2020-4)

April

‘Temporary’ shut down of Europe’s borders extended…

A makeshift border between Germany and Switzerland. ARND WIEGMANN/Reuters

May

Europe reopens (some of) its internal borders

Photo: Luxembourg and German Foreign Ministers stand on the bridge over the Moselle River at the reopened border between the two countries on Saturday 16 May 2020. Credit: Oliver Dietze/dpa/Alamy Live News June

June

Europe continues to reopen (some of) its internal borders

Swiss customs officials open a fence closing the Swiss-French border in Thonex near Ambilly, France AFP

July

Summer European travelling in times of Covid…

Checking for coronavirus symptoms, Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, June 3, 2020. /AP

August

Entry-Exit System Pilot Project to Be Launched at EU Land Borders

September

The Swiss say yes to (continued) free movement in the EU

Photo: A poster of the Action for an independent and neutral Switzerland (AUNS) reading: “It’s getting tight -Yes to the anti-immigration initiative”. Adliswil, Switzerland September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

October

The second wave hits European borders

Photo:  Checks at Hungary’s border. Gergely Besenyei/AFP/Getty Images

November

France calls for the reform of Schengen (again)

Photo: French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to the border between France and Spain | Pool photo by Guillaume Horcajuelo/AFP via Getty Images

December

UK-EU deal and a new border in Gibraltar

Photo: Gibraltar. AP

A taste of Brexit’s Kent border?

Photo: Lorries line up on the way to Dover; PA

HAPPY 2021!!!

Covid 19 and Schengen – reflections

Here is my take (on video) on the impact of Covid 19 on European borders. Part of

@CER_QMUL NEXTEUK Virtual Seminar Series.

Europe’s borders in 2019 : a visual review

Here we go again: another year, another (visual) review of all that has affected European borders in 2019. Brexit (once again) took center stage, but also Schengen’s ‘internal’ borders, migrants crossing the Meditteranean, and more refugee art… Enjoy!

 

December

Internal border checks within Schengen: no more needed, and yet…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November

New powers for Europe’s border agency

 

 

 

 

 

 

The revival of the “Balkan mini Schengen”

 

 

 

 

 

 

October

Johnson’s Brexit deal and Nothern Ireland: hard border with Great Britain?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Croatia as new Schengen member: The Commission says yes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

September

Still at it! Turkey ups pressure on visa-free entry into EU

 

 

 

 

 

 

August

‘Makes Me Sick’: Ai Weiwei Says Europe Has Turned Its Back on Refugees

 

 

 

 

 

July

Banksy’s Brexit mural mysteriously disappears…

 

 

 

 

 

 

June

Angels Unaware | Timothy P. Schmalz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2019

Banksy resurfaces in Venice…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

Check check check! Austria prolongs border controls with Hungary and Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

March

Teenage African migrants accused of hijacking tanker

 

 

 

 

 

 

EU ends migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February

African states say no to EU migrant camp plans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January

We end as we started… – Hassan Fazili on the refugee journey

 

Europe’s borders in 2018: a visual review

The Brexit saga, the Mediterranean tragedy, the Schengen pantomime, the asylum redistribution farce… These are some of the ‘performances’ that defined European borders in 2018. Below you will find a visual review of the year that has just passed.

 

January

Living in a post-Brexit world…France and UK fight over the ‘new’ Channel border 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February

Living in a post-Brexit world 2: Irish passports quite popular these days …

 

 

 

 

 

 

March

Plus ça change…: Germany Interior minister calls for suspension of Schengen Agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

Oh well, post-Brexit UK ‘blue passports’ will be printed in the EU after all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

May

Give me more…European Commission wants 10,000 border guards

 

 

June

Closed ports: The Aquarius saga in the Mediterranean

 

 

 

 

 

 

July

Breaking taboos: Serbia proposes a territorial swap with Kosovo…

 

 

 

 

 

 

August

…and the EU commission gives the go-ahead to the swap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September

Tightening the screw: Germany and Austria back tougher EU external border

 

 

 

 

 

 

October

High alert at the border! Italian police blow up a bag of…coconuts!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November

EU backs (once again) plans for migrant centres in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

December

Here we go again…EU leaders stuck on asylum reform

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europe’s borders in 2017: a visual review

Trumpean walls, Libya’s new slaves, Frontex vs NGOs, the Irish/Brexit border conundrum, the permanence of temporary checks at internal frontiers… These are some of the themes that defined European borders in 2017. Here is a visual review of the year that has just passed.

 

January

Not just a US thing: poll finds European support for Trump-like refugee ban

 

 

 

 

 

 

February

The time is not ripe: Schengen temporary border controls extended

 

 

 

 

 

 

March

Slave trade at Europe’s outskirts

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

Drama! Frontex vs NGOs, or who is making Europe’s migration crisis worse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

May

Rebel rebel…Denmark says no to lift temporary border controls

 

 

 

 

 

 

June

At last! Visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU

 

 

 

 

 

 

July

EU naval mission in Med: really helpful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

August

They did it at last… Austria starts checks at Italian border (or did they)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

September

“Temporary”? EU to allow Schengen border controls for up to three years

 

 

 

 

 

 

October

Romania’s (ruined) Schengen Plans: again, not the right time

 

 

 

 

 

 

November

 Celebrating 10 years of Schengen in Eastern Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

May the force be with you: Brexit and the Irish border crucible

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

Mapping Schengen Art – new entries

Here is the latest instalment of Schengen Border Art, an ongoing project in which I map the multifarious ways in which the Old Continent’s (real and imaginary) frontiers have been represented/performed/subverted through creative performances. Enjoy!

 

 

Les Exilés

Didier Viode

(Painting, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://didierviode.fr/les-exiles/

 

Europe’s New Borders

Rasmus Degnbol (2016, photos)

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.rasmusdegnbol.com/portfolio/europes-new-borders/

 

 

For the Right to Have Rights!,

Castaway Souls of Sjælsmark/Denmark (2016, theatre performance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.kunstkritikk.com/wp-content/themes/KK/ajax/general/print.php?id=78662&r=0.09570529498159885

 

 

The Crossing

George Kurian (2015, documentary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://vimeo.com/137956327

 

The Land Between

David Fedele (2013, documentary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thelandbetweenfilm.com

 

 

Performing Borders Study Room Guide

Alessandra Cianetti (2016, book)

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/performing-borders-a-study-room-guide-on-physical-and-conceptual-borders-wi

 

 

Mobility and Migration in Film and Moving Image Art: Cinema Beyond Europe

Nilgün Bayraktar

(2016, book)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.routledge.com/Mobility-and-Migration-in-Film-and-Moving-Image-Art-Cinema-Beyond-Europe/Bayraktar/p/book/9781138858831

***

Bad omens, good omens: how does a restored Schengen look like?

Ouch! Schengen is in trouble…

On May 10, 2016, the museum created to celebrate the Schengen regime—evocatively located in the eponymous Luxemburg town by the river Moselle—was damaged by the collapse of one of its ceilings. Happening in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, it was an eerie omen of the regime’s current predicament. Indeed, an increasing number of cracks have begun to appear in what is still considered a central pillar of European integration. The breakdown of the Dublin Convention arrangement brought about by the sudden flow of Europe-bound migrants and the ensuing squabbles over the EU-led redistribution of asylum seekers across the continent, together with the reintroduction of internal controls, have rattled the regime’s foundations. A rising populist backlash against the idea of a “border-free Europe” has also brought into question the regime’s raison d’être and challenged its legitimacy.  In this context, it is not surprising that references to “the end of Schengen” have become ubiquitous.

Schengen restored…for now

In all this doom and gloom, finally some good news. After a year long hiatus, the Schengen museum has just reopened, and patrons are once again able to marvel at the regime’s accomplishments. Can the (real) Schengen follow the same path and return to its original shine? Well, maybe it can. After all, it is not the first time the Schengen regime has experienced periods of turmoil. In the early 1990s, for instance, the French government’s recalcitrance to fully lift internal controls at its borders stalled the regime’s  launch. While the possibility exists that the reinstatement of internal border controls within the Schengen area may become permanent, the European Commission and all member states have confirmed their commitment to lift these checks once the emergency period is over. Moreover, there are signs that the current crisis might actually lead to the regime’s further integration, as the recent upgrading of EU border agency Frontex suggests.

The strongest argument in support of the Schengen regime, however, is that even if it were to collapse, the need for European governments to address migratory pressures on Europe would not disappear. Unilateral actions such as the permanent reinstatement of national border controls might replicate the phenomenon of The Jungle, the notorious makeshift camp erected—and disbanded in October 2016—in the Northern French city of Calais. A Europe-wide “Jungle effect” would be politically untenable. It is therefore difficult to foresee a solution that does not involve at least a modicum of cooperation among European governments and some level of coordination from EU institutions. In other words, the most likely scenario in the case of the regime’s collapse is a Schengen redux. Such an arrangement would resemble the current one, but with its priorities reversed. The strengthening of external borders, hitherto considered a compensatory measure to balance the lifting of internal ones, would become the primary objective. A border-free Europe would remain a desirable outcome worth pursuing, but not if this meant compromising security. This shift of priorities is already apparent in the current post-crisis context; yet it is, at least on paper, only temporary and ad hoc. In the Schengen redux scenario outlined here, it would be become official and permanent.  This new arrangement would also be less institutionalised, with more emphasis on enhanced cooperation. One of this scenario’s downsides is that, since the lifting of internal borders is dependent on the strengthening of external ones, Schengen would compromise its primary source of legitimacy, namely its close connection with the European integration project. By diluting this historical tie, the political will to keep Schengen alive, even in the form of “Schengen-light,” would be seriously reduced.

European policymakers would certainly welcome a Schengen’s ‘restoration’ along the lines of the real-life entity the museum celebrates. They would also be pleased if the “renovations” they are currently considering work out well, and if they do not turn out to be mere temporary patches. If the latter turns out to be the case, another serious incident affecting the Schengen regime might offer them no choice but to demolish its entire structure[i].

***

 

[i] This post is a (revised and updated) excerpt from a chapter on EU border management that I wrote for  Routledge’s Handbook of Justice and Home Affairs Research (edited by Ariadna Ripoll Servent and Florian Trauner)

Europe’s borders in 2016: a visual review

2016, another year of turmoil on the Old Continent’s frontiers… Here is a visual summary of what happened.

 

January

Schengen (still) in crisis: internal borders across the EU reinstated

jan

 

 

 

 

 

 

February

The closing of the Balkan route: migrants stranded in Greece

feb-macedonia

 

 

 

 

 

February

Nato new mandate: refugees? Alliance vessels in the Mediterranean

Group ready and in place to provide their contributions to the other actors. The units of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) are conducting drills as part of NATO's participation in the international efforts to cut the lines of illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean Sea.

 

March

Schengen under further strain: tighter border security after Brussels attacks

brussels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

First refugees under EU-Turkey deal land in Germany

first-refs-germany

 

 

 

 

 

 

May

Bad omen: Schengen European Museum ceiling collapse

may-ceiling

 

 

 

 

 

June

Brexit dixit: harder borders in the UK?   

june-brexit

 

 

 

 

 

 

September

The Great Wall of Calais: work on the latest European barrier begins …

calais-wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

October

Frontex redux: The new European Border and Coast Guard launched

frontex

 

 

 

 

 

November

Calais’ Jungle is no more…

calais-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean at a record high

med-december

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