There are strong indications that the members of the European Union, EU, may soon embark on the process of reviewing the Schengen Visa agreement to curtail influx of illegal migrants, tighten border patrols and checkmate cross-border terrorism.
France, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed the Schengen Agreement in 1985, which facilitates free movement of people and goods from one country to another without barriers. Since its implementation in 1995, the Schengen Agreement has eliminated border controls between its signatories and created a common visa policy for 26 countries.
The treaty was a key step in the creation of a Federal Europe. By eliminating border controls, member states gave up a basic element of national sovereignty. The agreement also required a significant degree of trust among its signatories, because it put the responsibility for checking foreigners’ identities and baggage on the country of first entry into the Schengen area. Once people have entered a Schengen country, they can move freely across most of Europe without facing any additional controls.
However in recent time, rising immigration and fragile economic recovery in Europe is reducing political support for the Schengen Agreement, which eliminates border controls among member states. As a result, some European diplomats have called for the Schengen Agreement to be reformed to make room for countries to tighten their border controls more frequently.
According to Professor Simpson Sowers, a British Foreign affairs consultant, “the Schengen Agreement was implemented in the 1990s, when the end of the Cold War and the prospect of permanent economic prosperity led EU members to give up national sovereignty in many sensitive areas.
“The creation of the Eurozone is probably the most representative agreement of the period. But several things have changed in Europe since then, and member states are beginning to question many of the decisions that were made during the preceding years of optimism”, he stated.
Confirming the development, a serving High Commissioner of an EU nation in Nigeria, who pleaded anonymity told Nigerian Pilot yesterday in Abuja that “reforming the Schengen agreement or outright abolition is the best thing to do right now” by member countries, stressing that “the migration crisis has also led to greater friction between Schengen members and their non-Schengen neighbours”
Said he: “The recent dispute between France and the United Kingdom (which is not a member of the Schengen zone) over immigrants trying to cross the English Channel at the French port of Calais was perhaps the most visible example of the growing tension, but the situation also led Hungary to build a fence at its border with Serbia and issue threats to militarize the border.”
Furthermore the diplomat said, “The Schengen Agreement will probably be reformed before the end of the decade to make it easier for countries to reintroduce border controls. The first step in this direction happened in 2013, when signatory members agreed that border controls could be temporarily reintroduced under extraordinary circumstances (such as a serious threat to national security).
Analysts are of the opinion that in the coming years, member states will push to be given more powers and discretion when it comes to reintroducing border controls. They contend that even without a proper reform of the Schengen Agreement, member states will continue to enhance police controls at train and bus stations and at airports. Several countries already employ sporadic police controls on trains and buses, a practice that is likely to grow. Under pressure from conservative forces, many EU countries (mostly in northern Europe) will also toughen their migration laws to make it harder for immigrants to access welfare benefits.

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