SSR: Freedom to move, live & work cannot be taken for granted | By Prof Shazia Cheema, Prague


SSR: Freedom to move, live & work cannot be taken for granted

THE first-ever State of Schengen Report (SSR) was presented by the European Commission on 24 May.

This report is part of the Commission’s initiative to reinforce the Schengen governance through a yearly reporting exercise presenting the state of Schengen, identifying priorities for the year ahead and monitoring progress made at the end of a given year.

The focus of this exercise is effective border controls. I have been writing for long that it will become difficult for Europe to maintain its soft image of offering non-Europeans to misuse EU laws offered for the betterment of humanity because these laws are now being used against the very core of European social standards.

The statement of the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson explains why such an initiative has been taken to review the working of Schengen member states?

The need for annual review, according to political analysts, is to enhance the sense of responsibility among certain member states that are over-sighting their responsibilities in connection with controlling illegal asylum seekers.

We remember EU and Schengen borders had been under tremendous pressure last year when incidents of illegal border crossing increased un-proportionately.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson believes that the freedom to move, live and work in different Member States cannot be taken for granted.

The “State of Schengen Report” will be a guideline document for maintaining European Border and Coast Guard to work in a more effective and integrated way.

I believe this process of reviewing Schengen governance annually would help secure Schengen states from illegal transportation of human trafficking and asylum seekers that have become a serious problem for the EU as well as for Schengen countries.

The priority actions list for 2022-2023 includes making full use of cross-border cooperation tools, ensuring systematic checks at the external borders of all travelers and adopting the revised Schengen Borders Code.

Effective EU border management is linked with several topics including external border management, police cooperation, return, the Schengen Information System, visa policies and data protection, integrated border management and carrying out systematic checks at the external borders of the European Union.

The report also shares the multiannual strategic policy cycle for European Integrated Border Management, which will guide how all the actors within the European Border and Coast Guard operate over the next five years.

Though this report does not use the word “asylum-seekers” as the core issue behind reviewing border management, everybody who lives in Europe like me understands the driving forces behind this initiative.

This report will be discussed by Members of the European Parliament and Home Affairs Ministers in the Schengen Forum and Schengen Council.

The last report of the survey of Századvég, called “Project Europe”, on immigration that was conducted in 2020 and released on December 10, 2020, indicates that 46 percent of Europeans living in 28 countries believe that illegal immigrants as a “very serious” issue for their societies.

The data of the report show that European societies agree on the broader issue of migration in a number of important areas.

As many as 67% of participants of the survey believe European Union is not managing the migration crisis properly and expect more efficient border protection from the European Union.

The report indicates that 75% of Europeans are worried about the influx of illegal migrants into their own country.

At the same time, almost 65% of the respondents in the V4 countries are concerned about the problem of the influx of illegal migrants.

The Visegrad Group (V4) is an informal regional format of cooperation between the four Central European countries: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, which are not only linked by neighborhood and similar geopolitical situations but above all by common history, traditions, culture, and values.

Living in a V4 country, I stand by their concerns.These countries have a unique cultures. They are different than other Europeans.

I can compare because I spent many years in Scandinavian countries for my studies and had been travelling a lot in Schengen states. V4 countries are a beautiful mixture of East and West.

Lost in their slow-paced lifestyle, they are very close to their centuries-old traditions and they are proud of them.

They love their history and they do not forget their friends and foes even after centuries. Their concerns about illegal immigrants are justified not only because of economic reasons (that is the major issue of western parts of the EU) but culturally.

They are friendly and comfortable with foreigners who are living here legally but they have a stiff response for those who have just invaded their culture in the quest for a better future, reaching illegally to V4 countries with 6 plus family count.

—The writer is an author, columnist, foreign affairs expert and author of books.