Schengen Essay

On the face of it, we would have no reason to object to open political, social, cultural and economic borders.

Let’s look beyond the face and the lex involved.

Schengen is a policy and a reality which has provided grist to the mill for conflict and disagreement and we must talk and act on this: European to European; world citizen to world citizen.

If you asked me, European to European, and I hope you will - what was my greatest influence as a mature geopolitician:

“Schengen”! I will answer, and I would hope we would come to the next step and speak all that is involved in a way that is relevant to us and to the project.

Last Wednesday I was involved in a project which required some social and human capital. Don’t all projects require just this? It would seem to be a reality that too many of us ignore, especially with the alacrity of our technical age.

“Remember that little town in Luxembourg”? Perhaps you might have built it with Lego in 1985. Whether in free play or in a speech session is probably not relevant at this point. What matters is that construction is conducted in a spirit of free exchange.

“Free as in beer or free as in freedom” is a question very often asked in the free software world. And, yes, I will get to Torvalds and Linux and BSD as soon as I can.

In the Maastricht essay I mentioned that a library card is as important as a passport and visa. Within country and between and across nations it can be a profound source of identity and with Big Data a constructor or at least an informer of personality. It is an interaction among personalities.

Within this context I hope you will begin to see that Schengen is the alpha and omega of the European project. I plead for indulgence and for charity; something that at least 500 years before was not particularly forthcoming.

The world of the Baroque started with one broken pearl in Portugal. This pearl had complexities; was open to chaos. It facilitated a whole new world order.

I was very fond of the Renaissance. All the rebirths before in world history had been individual accidents or karmically exchanged and explained. This one was an intellectual force which is still reverberating into our current currency and custom.

If we think of Europe as primarily a customs union, we are missing out on so much. We follow the letter - alphabetisation - but not the spirit.

Not even the animal spirits which were so big in the 1980s.

So good to have an Eggheads question about the first French female Prime Minister.

Edith Cresson was on the scene in 1994 during Mitterrand II - a useful Roman custom I picked up from my Netherlandish friend.

My big Medieval focus was on the Roman Empire. Last September my close one had ransacked the charity shops for himself and for me. And I decided - perhaps fatuously - to read the Roman series which were written by Colleen McCullough who had died only that January.

McCullough had received ugliness as big as the woman herself. I hope that it does not overshadow her career. If history were gossip and speculation which the mean girls and big men write; there would still be no justification for the cynicism which we too often apply to the study and the coverage of it.

Yes, I still fall on the Idealism side of the sliding scale which is so well-known in the Tropes.

Free software and free hardware grew up. In the 1990s Europeans were creating their own computer systems.

Another “we are here because of who we were” is of course Switzerland’s CERN. I have not really talked about the military legacy here. I don’t want to come off as an ignorant civilian. And of course, arrogance is better than ignorance. One is an error of claim; the other a lack where knowledge is or ought to be.

My insurance people would think very differently I am sure! I wrote with concern that a generation of people in the United Kingdom were forgetting about National Insurance beyond the strict instrumental sense. Certainly the bastardisations in the media.

Why is the Internet - the World Wide Web - as secure as it is? Surely it wasn’t all on Tim Berners-Lee or even his mates at CERN.

In contrast, look at all the proprietary software small and medium enterprises take on as part of their taxation burden. In the design world there is Illustrator and Photoshop. Adobe Systems handled Europe and Japan and the Asia-Pacific in a way very few other US companies did, even in that complex landscape of encouragement, negotiation and obligation.

When I was a student the Microsoft anti-trust legislation was pursued by the European Union and its constituent bodies.

And it certainly appeared to be prosecuted that way. Not in the Redmond giant’s favour, I seem to recall.

My grasp of lex is not the best. Yet so much of European education derives from it. Too much would say the people of Sp!ked, a libertarian magazine which has informed and directed much of my thinking since about 2002.

One thing to remember about Schengen is that it really only works if people have established arrival and departure points. For example, a friend of mine wishes to go to Italy. Her launching point is the United Kingdom [London and Cambridge for choice]. The countries which are close would be Austria; Hungary; Slovenia and France. Croatia is there in the future; as are Romania and Bulgaria and Cyprus.

If your launching point was Greece - which is a relevant point with the current migration crisis which has been at a white heat point this fortnight - Croatia-Romania-Bulgaria is the outer edge. Lots of countries still need visas and passports.

The good thing is that Wikipedia has a clickable map.

I spoke about Switzerland somewhere earlier, and they are one country which is not in the EU and what with the current Social Contract/Charter arrangements, they might never be. It is nearly the same situation in Iceland - what a film RAMS was with the two brothers and their family and work - that is another transference.

So far I am talking about the Schengen area. Our Baroque traveller would recognise many of the places, especially if they banged on the map like Waldemar Januszczak does. Our traveller would go through the Netherlands; Belgium and that great swathe of the map which is Central Europe before they went to Portugal and Spain.

The classicist would enjoy Italy and Greece as well as the islands of those nations. If you wanted to enjoy life on an Italian or Greek island … now you know the way that Odysseus travelled the long way to Africa and Asia.

26 March 1995 was a big turning point in the implementation of Schengen because France and Germany joined the fray on that date. Other nations which did this would be the Netherlands and Spain. If you are me you are probably wondering: Why the hell did it take ten years? There are four areas a nation has to be ready in - police presence; data protection; visas.

Seems the end of March was another sticking point by 2001; let alone by 2011. I am talking about Iceland and Lietchensten respectively.

At the regional level subnational entities may earn their provisions. One quick example which will serve to suffice would be Ceuta and Melilia. This bit of southern Spain is close to Morocco. I did not really touch in the first essay - the one about Maalbeek - about the Moroccans who were responsible.

There is a lot of naming, shaming and blaming against Middle Eastern and North African nationals/immigrants which really should not be going on and would make the blood of any decently constituted European boil. And when we remember the ways of land, sea and air - as well as contemplate any future travel and transport and tourist journey - the contours make the justification.

You will have noticed that there are four countries in my reference that are not in the Schengen Agreement - but they will be in there in a few months - almost certainly later. In particular; Bulgaria and Romania. Both nations there is no consensus that the acquis goals have been met.

Cyprus is fairly obvious. The Cypriot dispute is going on and on and on. The migrant crisis would appear to be holding up Croatia. “What about our cheap holidays?” ask the Brits and the Danes.

In the next few days there will be last days for the nations who reacted to the migrant crisis with the closure of the Acquis. Denmark and Belgium have already opened up and Norway opened up the day after Belgium.

France is still looking for time and for healing after the Paris attacks of November 2015. Still, by the 26th April 2016, it is once again a free for all. One thing I did not quite realise which is reflected in the Wikipedia article is the Tunisian revolution.

Sweden has the distinction of opening up on Schuman Day, and Germany does it five days later. Roughly six or seven months of travel and activity.

The Home Affairs Commissioner has said what I would say in regard to France and Italy and the regulation of their internal borders. That yawning gap between the letter and the spirit had been evident for a long time - it had shaped a generation and a half and their attitude. When this sort of thing changes over 30 years and elders and vanguards interact vertically and literally the spirit is sometimes tied in a net. Each node has a throughput.

One thing that was not around in 1985 was the biometric passport. I think they became popular and accessible to mainstream citizens in the late 1990s-early 2000s. They apply to people inside and outside the Schengen agreement who have connections to the nation concerned. Usually the more “developed” nations have them. Even now in France, there are three airports. [Very fortunate and privileged that Marseille-Provence airport is one of the three!] If your country, like Latvia, has one airport, and in the Norden case [Estonia] it is so much more streamlined which is eminently helpful for planning.

As we learnt in Brussels, the system is open at every point to abuse or misuse. Airport security people tend to be tendentious about these small leakages or breakages which come at some point within the journey. Everything must be bolted down and well-planned by travellers and their companions.

Portugal; Spain and Finland seem to do it effectively when it comes to biometric material.

The first three stages are well covered, and are shown in light green in the Wikipedia table. Big kudos to the researchers who may well include people on the inside and in the know. Finland in particular is very friendly to some third-country travellers. Was not able to learn about Portugal and Spain - in the early 1990s much was informal and understood, especially where the Spanish monarchy was concerned. And those who know me would not put it past that I would walk over the Pyrenees border; hitch a ride with Basques or with Roma if it should come to that.

Perhaps you have 90 or 180 days - we’ll take these protractor figures - and you would wish for yourself to use them well. A reminder - Schengen is European for and to European. There is this grey hole which a lot of emigrants are using at the moment which may or may not be covered in the European Economic Area.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Area and the Agreement. Maybe the Balkan situation isn’t as bad as I’ve painted it - people do go through in and out of the places without a visa. This is an aspect of the “world citizen” part of Schengen which people might forget.

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