Commission says closing EU borders ‘won’t stop’ terror

French police officers control the border crossing between Spain and France, ahead of a visit of French President Macron (not pictued) at Le Perthus, France, 5 November 2020. [Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA/EFE]

The EU’s top home affairs official on Monday (30 December) said putting up borders within Europe was ineffective against terrorism and would only hurt the bloc’s post-Covid economic recovery.

EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson made her argument while defending the Schengen zone, the passport-free travel area that has come under pressure from France and others after recent terror attacks.

Europe must strengthen border controls after attacks, says Macron

Europe must rethink its open-border Schengen area, including a more robust protection of the zone’s external frontiers, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday (5 November), after a spate of Islamist attacks in France and Austria.

The Schengen zone covers most of the 27 EU members, along with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein and comes under regular pressure over terror as well as illegal migration concerns.

“When we are facing the biggest economic crisis in our history probably, free movement will also be (one of) our most important instruments for recovery,” said EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

“It is clear that internal border controls will damage the GDP significantly,” she added, citing official research.

“Border controls at internal borders unfortunately won’t stop terrorists. However, we know border controls will stop transport, trade and tourists,” she insisted.

The defence of Schengen came weeks after ministers from EU member states held back from a revamp of the policy, but called for reinforced security at the bloc’s external borders.

Following the 29 October attack perpetrated in Nice by an undocumented Tunisian who passed through Italy, French President Emmanuel Macron advocated an overhaul of Schengen.

Macron ups protection after Nice attack

The French army’s “sentinel” operation will be reinforced from 3,000 to 7,000 soldiers to protect places of worship and schools, President Emmanuel Macron announced following a knife attack that killed two women and a man on Thursday in Nice.

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He said he would submit proposals to a European leaders summit on 10-11 December.

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