Is Symbolism More Important than Pragmatism in Europe's Border Control?

The European Council seems to think so, given its stated recommendations and conclusions.

By Viktor Marsai on March 9, 2023

From the Hungarian-Serbian border to the Polish-Belorussian one, last year demonstrated that without fences it is almost impossible to mitigate the flow of irregular mass migration and implement effective border control.

After the illegal arrival into Europe of 330,000 people in 2022-64 percent more than in 2021 — some politicians and experts sounded the alarm again, arguing for stronger border protection, including the erection of more physical barriers. Yet the conclusion of the recent special meeting of the European Council showed that the European Union and some member states are still strictly against fences, and they did not support the deployment of common funding for the construction of physical barriers.

The European resistance to border walls has strong historical and symbolic roots. The haunting memory of the Iron Curtain which divided Europe for almost fifty years and created a conservation area for authoritarian socialist regimes is still very strong among the generation that is currently leading the continent, as is the idea of an open and inclusive European Union. It is obvious if we read the words of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who said during the Council meeting that the debate looks like “we want to build a great Berlin Wall around the European Union.” According to Politico, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz followed a similar argument when he tried to calm the mood, and asked whether the EU wanted to turn itself into a fortress, stated that “walls, simply put, do not work.”

Nevertheless, other member countries have different opinions — and, interestingly, they are mainly the front-line states on the EU’s external borders which have already experienced the effectiveness of physical barriers and who demand common EU-funding for their border protection.


[Read the rest at the National Interest]