quinta-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2016
Backlash grows to Schengen backlash
Backlash grows to Schengen backlash
Business raises alarms about the high cost of restoring borders in Europe.
By JANOSCH DELCKER 2/4/16, 5:30 AM CET
BERLIN — The migration crisis and anxieties about terrorism have brought into pointed focus the political and security costs of a borderless Europe.
Now pressure to tighten controls at frontiers and possibly gut the Schengen accord that created a passport-free continent is highlighting another cost — the economic one of reinstating Europe’s borders.
It is huge, say the EU pols who want to keep Schengen, as well as businesses that profit from the smooth movement of people and products around the EU.
Every day, some 3.5 million people cross the borders between the 22 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland in the Schengen zone. Almost 1.7 million people in Europe work in one Schengen country and live in another. Every year, a couple of trillion euros in goods and services moves around this area.
The warnings of disruptions and economic calamities in case of Schengen’s collapse are growing in volume.
The French government’s economic planning agency, France Stratégie, estimated in a report released this week that the reintroduction of permanent border controls within the EU would cost the bloc €110 billion per year, and make the EU economy 0.8 percent smaller within a decade.
Traffic jams and red tape would particularly hit trade and tourism, the agency added.
In a press release at the end of January, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) estimated that border controls would cost Germany €10 billion a year. “It’s a careful estimate,” Dirk Schlotböller of DIHK said, “which involves all border crossings of goods and people. This also includes tourism, retail trade, skilled crafts, etc.”
The cost of Schengen’s collapse would dent but not cripple an EU economy of €14.3 trillion.
Germany, which saw the arrival of over 1 million asylum-seekers last year, used an emergency clause in the Schengen treaty to introduce checks at its land border with Austria in September. Austria, France, Denmark, Sweden and Norway also introduced temporary border controls, which are currently limited to a maximum of six months.
EU interior ministers last week took the first step toward adopting new legislation that will allow extending these border checks up to two years. Many countries have been pushing for such a “worst case” solution, as they fear this year a new record number of migrants might come to Europe.
The Schengen area was established in 1995 and has been lauded as “the greatest achievement of European integration.”
The estimates of undoing this “achievement” vary. Last month, in a speech before the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the re-imposition of border controls would cost €3 billion-a-year in lost business, citing the Commission’s estimates.
Whether over €100 billion per the French or Juncker’s €3 billion, the cost of Schengen’s collapse would dent but not cripple an EU economy of €14.3 trillion. But the impact varies by region and sector, which will shape the politics of the border debate in the coming months.
Slovaks, Estonians, Hungarians and Estonians are the EU citizens who most often commute to work across an internal Schengen border. Certain regions are so closely intertwined economically that strict border checks are nearly unimaginable: Germany’s Bavaria and Czech Bohemia, for example, or Catalonia and southern France. Lorry drivers can still remember the days before Poland joined the EU and Schengen when it took up to 30 hours to cross into Germany.
The pro-Schengen lobby
The tension between public opinion and economic interest is growing in Germany. According to two recent independent polls by public broadcaster ARD and private TV station N24, a majority of Germans favor re-establishing border controls, particularly if other countries in Europe are doing so.
“We demand to intensify the controls at every border from the German-Austrian border all the way down to the Republic of Macedonia, in a concerted action,” Thomas Kreuzer, the Bavarian state parliament chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the more conservative Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU, told POLITICO. “We have a situation, at which Austria has introduced an upper limit of refugees, but is still waving through those who want to go to Germany. This is intolerable.”
Yet Germany’s position as Europe’s wealthiest industrial economy and the world’s third-biggest exporter relies on smooth trade in both directions. So businesses have launched a major lobbying effort to fight stricter border controls. The cost estimate released by the German chamber of commerce last month was an early shot across the political bows.
France would suffer losses between €1 billion and €2 billion annually in the short term if Europe returns to borders.
“Our business model depends on open borders,” Anton Börner, president of BGA, an industry association that represents wholesalers, service providers and exporters, was quoted as saying by Süddeutsche Zeitung in late January.
Dieter Zetsche, CEO of automobile giant Daimler, said in a written statement last month that the “highly interwoven automobile industry depends heavily on borders within the Schengen area. All centrifugal forces that run counter to a strong unified Europe will have negative effects on our industry and its competitiveness.”
Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria’s neighbor and the third-richest state in Germany, is run by a coalition of the Green Party and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
“No one can just close the borders. That would have fatal consequences for the economy, particularly for Baden-Württemberg, which relies on international business relations,” said Nils Schmid of the SPD, Baden-Württemberg’s economy minister. Referring to the Bavarian push to close the borders, he said, “such pseudo solutions massively endanger wealth and jobs in our state.”
While Kreuzer and others on the German right insist that tighter controls on cross-border passenger transport will have a minimal impact on economic activity, German business is pushing the opposite story: that borders will bring higher costs for everyone involved in the supply chain.
‘An economic catastrophe’
Anton Börner of the BGA estimated that closing the borders would increase the cost for international road transport alone across Europe by about €3 billion per year.
“If Germany closed its borders, this would be a blatant intrusion into our day-to-day business,” said Cora Bügenburg, a branch manager at the German logistics and haulage company Allgaier Translog. “Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Germany has become the center of transit traffic in Europe, and the traffic volume has increased immensely. If the borders were closed, it would directly harm us and the manufacturing industry we are supplying.”
Tourism would shrink by €500 million to €1 billion a year, while the negative impact on trade would amount to between €60 million and €120 million annually.
France Stratégie, the government economic agency, said France would suffer losses between €1 billion and €2 billion annually in the short term if Europe returns to borders. Tourism would shrink by €500 million to €1 billion a year, while the negative impact on trade would amount to between €60 million and €120 million annually.
In the longer term, the economic effects could even result in a 0.5 percent cut in France’s annual economic growth, or about €10 billion, according to France Stratégie.
The champions of a borderless Europe are invoking the economic case to make the political one for keeping Schengen.
“I don’t even want to imagine what it would mean if all of a sudden, trucks and employees would have to wait for hours at the borders again,” Germany’s Deputy Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democratic Party said in a radio interview in January. “Those are huge economic disadvantages.”
He added that the collapse of Schengen would lead to “an economic catastrophe for the whole continent.”
Hans von der Burchard in Brussels contributed to this article.