Yesterday, the President of France announced that he will double the staff assigned to border control to face “the intensified terrorist threat.” French President Emmanuel Macron said his country “should radically overhaul Schengen to rethink its organization, to intensify our common border protection with a real security police force at the external borders of the area, but also by strengthening the integration of our rules.”
This is a drastic challenge to the Schengen agreement and European Union (EU) open border values, perhaps one of the most famous tenets of the bloc. The Schengen Area comprises of 26 European countries, not all of them EU members, who abolished their internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people. However, this has exposed major security flaws which is challenging the Western liberal ideology of open borders and unrestricted movements of peoples across the continent.
Macron wishes to make proposals in overhauling the Schengen system at the upcoming December European Council meeting. This is the same meeting where the French President is expected to push EU members to approve sanctions against Turkey for continually violating the continental shelves of Greece and Cyprus in the East Mediterranean and for instigating radical Islamist attacks in Europe.
However, the problem is deeper than Schengen and comes to the very core of the EU’s Western liberal ideology. Although amending the Schengen agreement might find support in countries like Poland and Hungary, it will inevitably find resistance in Germany, Sweden, Belgium and other states with open border ideologies. Although France for the past several centuries has been one of the centers of Western liberal thought, increasing Islamic terrorist attacks and a threat of losing the 2022 elections to Far Right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is forcing Macron to take a new approach.
18 months ahead of the 2022 elections, an October poll showed Macron would get 23%-26% of votes in the first round against the 24%-27% Le Pen would get. Le Pen has not hidden away from her anti-immigration policies, opposes the highly centralized and supranationalism of the EU, has pledged to withdraw France from NATO and the U.S. sphere of influence, proposes the replacement of the World Trade Organization, and calls for the abolition of the International Monetary Fund. Macron, a former investment banker at Rothschild & Co, was originally the antithesis to Le Pen, but has been increasingly forced to adapt his ideology somewhat closer to hers or risk losing the 2022 elections.
Christian Estrosi, the Mayor of Nice, agrees with Macron that the Schengen agreement must be reviewed, but takes a more tough approach by openly announcing a permanent suspension of it. Estrosi’s announcement comes in the aftermath of the October 29 terrorist attack at the Notre-Dame de Nice Catholic basilica where three people were slaughtered.
In an interview given to Nice Matin, Estrosi emphasized that it is necessary to suspend the Schengen agreement.
“Nice was not affected because it was Nice, but because of its proximity to the border,” he said.
Estrosi’s claim is motivated by the jihadist attack perpetrated by Brahim Aouissaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian national who arrived in the southern French city from Italy two days before he wreaked havoc. The terrorist had passed through the Italian island of Lampedusa at the end of September. He was easily able to travel to Nice as it is only 30 kilometers from the open border between France and Italy.
Calls for suspending the Schengen agreement is not a new phenomenon in France. In 2006, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had made the fight against mass immigration one of the main features of his campaign. In April 2011, Sarkozy said he wanted to review the Schengen treaty and suspend it if necessary. He did it again in 2012, explaining that “the influx of foreigners” threatened the French social model.
However, all of these examples are before German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan instigated a coordinated European migrant crisis in 2015 under the guise of helping Syrian refugees. Rather, this crisis was provoked so Turkey could offload illegal immigrants it was hosting while Germany could get an influx of a large cheap labor force.
France has already on several occasions temporarily suspended the Schengen agreements. This occurred in 2015 after the November 13 Paris terrorist attack where 130 civilians were killed in the midst of the migrant crisis. Paris then re-established border controls but this was a temporary measure.
Perhaps the only real permanent solution to France’s security and migrant problems is a “Frexit.” The EU and the European Convention on Human Rights are two supranational bodies that weaken France in security and immigration issues.
These two bodies are very protective of asylum rights, family reunifications and other migrant issues, while sidelining security matters. European treaties, law and the justice system, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, completely paralyze Europe in the face of terrorism and mass immigration.
It is for this reason that to best serve French security concerns, a Frexit process should begin. It is doubtful that Macron will push for a Frexit, despite making obscure threats of it. However, the very threat of Le Pen toppling him in the 2022 elections is forcing the French president to make a strong opposition against radical Islam and its main backer, Turkey. This has limitations though as Macron still binds France to EU laws, justice and norms. Therefore, only with full sovereignty, which can only be achieved with Frexit, can France best secure its borders and deal with radicals residing within the country.