Europe is in serious trouble if the Schengen zone of passport-free travel collapses, senior EU politicians warned Friday.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said Schengen was one of the “biggest achievements of the European integration process.”
Speaking to reporters in Brussels at his first full press conference of 2016, Juncker said: “Less Schengen means less employment, less economic growth. Without Schengen, without the free movement of workers, without freedom of European citizens to travel, the euro makes no sense.”
Reaffirming the Commission’s determination to do everything necessary to maintain the Schengen area, the Commission president highlighted the costs of nixing Schengen, saying: “Waiting at an internal border would cost every lorry €55 for every hour.”
“I’m not going to give up [on Schengen], I reject the idea that this is somehow the beginning of an end,” he said.
Juncker’s view was echoed later Friday by Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s powerful finance minister.
Speaking after a meeting of EU finance ministers, Schäuble warned that Schengen was “close” to failing and the EU would face a “tremendous, enormous” threat if Germany was forced to reintroduce border controls, as other EU states have done.
“We can only avoid such a development if we solve the problems quicker, through better and more effective protection of the external borders and through more and more intensive support and cooperation,” Schäuble said. “For that we will need a lot more money.”
EU member countries have been split over the future of Schengen in the wake of the migration crisis, with border controls being reintroduced across the bloc.
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