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The Month of December has come, and it would be nice to write an article about peace, love and brotherhood in the world, as these ideals are traditionally associated with Christmas and Year End.
No matter how much I believe in these ideals, and no matter how much these are close to my heart, I feel compelled to write about the stark realities that are upon us. Terror is no longer something that happens to strangers in Nigeria, Irak, Iran and many other foreign places. Terror is now among us. It is among us in two forms.
First, we in Europe have to deal with a multitude of refugees. Some of these are “economic” refugees, but probably the majority are fleeing the very terror of which we were recent witnesses in the very heart of Europe: Paris.
Secondly, and even more alarmingly, we now realise terrorists live and act among us. They are our neighbours and have European passports, and could strike again at any time and any place. The question is, what can we do, what should we do?
In these days, Schengen receives substantial and justified criticism. Indeed, like many if not most of the intiatives of the European Union, Schengen was agreed on hastily and sloppily. Above all, just like the Euro, it is a structure which lacks a foundation. However, Schengen is not the cause of the problems we have. If you’re old enough to remember, travel in Europe before and after Schengen days did not change all that much. Many years prior to Schengen, border controls were far and few in between, if one traveled by car or train. The main difference is for air travel, where we now no longer have to show our passports on arrival. I would argue that this frees up border control resources to focus on arrivals from outside the Schengen zone, so I am far from sure that Schengen is playing an adverse role as far as security is concerned.
My main concern with Schengen was, at the time, and still is, much more profound. Schengen allows free circulation for all – except the Police. This means we have created one open market for criminals, whilst law enforcement remains fragemented over 28 countries. (Some of these countries, such as Belgium, are further fragmented internally.) Of course these countries “coordinate”. But we have 28 countries coordinating with 28 others. This is 784 (28 X 28) contact points – a hopeless task.
We do not need to look far for the solution. The United States of America founded the FBI in the beginning of last century. The challenges were largely the same: one de facto open country and localised law enforcement.
I am a strong believer in a real unified Europe, with a real government, a real parliament and real democratic controls. However, it looks as if we’re very far from this ideal, and it even looks as if we’re moving away from it rather than towards it. Despite this, or failing this, we urgently need a “Federal” or failing that name, a real European wide Police. A Police force which can travel and work in any country, investigate, and make arrests if need be. A Police force which reports into one centralised structure and can liaise directly with direct colleagues no matter where. A Police force which speaks one language and operates according to one set of rules.
In short, I do not believe we should close the borders. This will not counter terrorism. The terrorists are, in any case, already here. We need to open the borders for the Police.
Maarten van Leeuwen
Group Managing Director
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