Tag Archives: Terrorism

Is Schengen Outdated?

By Greta Gietz Davidson College Class of 2015

The European Union, especially the post-1990 version, was founded on ideals of continental integration, peace, unity and freedom. In a continent that was in a seemingly constant state of war, a battlefield for millennia, such ideals were groundbreaking and incredibly meaningful. Now, a little over thirty years after the Schengen Agreement, an embodiment of these ideals and a centerpiece of the European project, was signed and only twenty years after the open borders between twenty-six European countries were fully implemented, insurmountable pressures face its future. The vast number of migrants crossing into the Schengen zone in the Mediterranean and the concern over terrorism are exposing the flaws and incomplete development of the open borders agreement. This moment of crisis could either erode the European project or significantly improve its structures for a stronger, long-lasting future. It is clear that something needs to change, not just in the name of security and control, but to keep the re-emerging populist parties at bay.

The Schengen zone is the world’s largest passport-free area comprising 400 million people from twenty-two EU and four non-EU countries. While EU citizens do not require a visa to visit or work in EU countries outside of Schengen, such as the UK, Schengen has facilitated the building of a European identity. Not only is Schengen practical, but it embodies 21st century governance in a post-nation state, globalized world by promoting the exchange of people and ideas across cultures and nations. With the open borders came the Euro, further integrating the European market and easing travel across the continent.

Can this almost utopian, deeply symbolic structure survive the migration crisis and, most recently, the growing fear that terrorists are exploiting Europe’s open borders, infiltrating the heart of Europe?

Since the attacks of November 13, France has reinstated border controls and Angela Merkel expressed that the migration crisis is raising “the question of whether or not the Schengen area can be maintained in the long term.” The investigations into the Paris attacks have suggested that at least one of the terrorists entered the Schengen area through Greece, disguised as a Syrian refugee a few months ago. It has also been concluded that the attacks had been planned in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, and that the attackers had moved freely between Belgium and France. Furthermore, as several of the suspects associated with the attacks had been known to French and Belgian intelligence, the investigations have uncovered the lack of cooperation and communication between the French and Belgian and other European authorities, despite sharing an open border.

These failures have exposed the shortcomings of Schengen and a scepticism that has always lurked in the background. There is no centralised effort or standard of policing the external borders and ensuring security within the member states. Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, is based in Warsaw, far away from the migration crisis, and it lacks funds and manpower to be effective. Until now, policing the external borders was largely a national responsibility. The Greek and Italian officials on Mediterranean islands and in coastal regions

carried the burden and were quickly overwhelmed and overrun by the migration influx. It was therefore completely out of the hands of countries like Germany and Sweden, the destinations for many migrants. Despite the Schengen zone practically being one country in terms of borders, there is no centralised intelligence. Many countries see a pan-European intelligence agency as too large a surrender of national sovereignty, but recent events arguably demonstrate the dangers in not joining intelligence forces. Even without Schengen, it will be necessary to invest in collaborative intelligence efforts. Europe is small and cooperation is vital.

Until now European integration has always developed and grown, now, for the first time, the EU might have reached its limits. While the borderless zone eases trade and speeds up deliveries, economic reasons will not be decisive. The free movement of people and goods will hardly be hindered by reinstated passport controls. Returning to traditional borders might satisfy the unease among the public, but it would indubitably be a big symbolic hit to European integration and potentially erode European identity. It will also make collective action on migration and security issues more difficult.

Instead, the EU should take recent events as a reality check. The flaws have become evident and need to be tackled by completing and finessing Schengen’s development: collectively strengthen the external borders by creating a common standard and giving Frontex more funds and manpower, and improving pan-European intelligence and communication. Schengen can only be effectively upheld if all members are committed to the same standards and processes.

Image Source: schengenvisainfo.com

The Myth of Incitement

This article was written and researched by a Davidson student who travelled to Jerusalem, but would like to remain anonymous

Several weeks ago, CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Dennis Ross—former advisor to both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton on Middle East policy—regarding escalating violence in Jerusalem. The conflict, which claimed the lives of at least 69 Palestinians and 10 Israelis in the month of October, has prompted mainstream American news agencies to turn their cameras toward the Holy Land and cover the normally-ignored fields of Israeli and Palestinian politics.

When asked to explain the upturn in violent confrontations in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Ross’s evaluation of the problem leapt immediately to what’s become a buzzword for Palestinian violence: incitement. Ross launched into a lengthy breakdown of the growing prevalence of social media videos and calls to action on extremist blogs, and referenced the ambiguity in Mahmoud Abbas’s speechwriting. His prescription for current events was that Abbas and other Palestinian leaders must “find a way to make violence illegitimate” by using more appropriate language and clearer condemnation of attacks.

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Unfortunately, Ross did not bother to address deep-seated issues that have consistently divided Israelis and Palestinians at the negotiating table, nor did he attempt to explore the web of other forces and injustices that might lead a Palestinian youth to commit such an act beyond implying that they were bored, unemployed teenagers swayed by hate speech. And Ross is not alone in his prioritization of incitement as the cause of violent escalation—other news sources headline the violence with references to social media and extreme rhetoric. All this attention builds the case for the myth of incitement: everything would be fine if people learned to speak respectfully and stop calling for acts of violence.

The truth that lies at the base of the myth of incitement is not that incitement to violence does not occur, or that it does not play a role in terror attacks. Rather, “incitement” as a root cause of conflict is often used as a smokescreen to mask larger and systematic injustices. Palestinian acts of violence do not take place in a vacuum where incitement is the only force present. Youth do not just commit violent crimes against civilians and military personnel because Mahmoud Abbas failed to condemn the last attack strongly enough. They do not stab police, soldiers, and civilians only because a religious leader they may have heard of published an aggressive video. At their core, the violent actions we have seen in recent weeks are responses to a decades-long policy of occupation and oppression that often happen to be influenced by social media and the views of some extreme factions within Palestinian politics and society.

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Analysis given by Ross and other mainstream media “experts” that references incitement without mentioning the deep-seated institutional injustice experienced by Palestinians or deep identity and security concerns of Jewish Israelis falls regrettably short. It reduces a long history of tension between security and freedom to surface-level circumstantial concerns, so as to paint over rooted, structural inequality. Such simplification also ignores the exacerbating effect that Israeli security policy (which includes, as Sultan Barakat notes, extrajudicial killings and the withholding of bodies) has upon already-disillusioned Palestinians. Just like it is unhelpful to mask extreme corruption within the Palestinian Authority by speaking only of the lack of economic opportunity for Palestinians without mentioning institutional failings, it is harmful to Americans’ understanding of a nuanced situation to mask Israeli expansionism and occupation by diverting attention to Palestinian incitement. Yes, there exist Palestinian extremists who, from a political or religious platform, extol violent attacks upon Israeli Jews. But the presence of this incitement is no excuse for media silence regarding the injustice of occupation when “analyzing” escalating violence. Ignoring the underlying forces of injustice, corruption, and political oppression in favor of the cheap thrill of “incitement” insults the intelligence of viewers. The American audience deserves coverage willing to delve into deeper structural problems rather than stopping at showing an inflammatory speech and some burning tires.

All images are from the author