With the recent influx of refugees from the Middle East and the tragic events that have unfolded in Paris and Beirut, many countries in Europe are starting to look at ways to increase border control. While most travelers remain adamant in supporting the global travel community and continuing to carry out their journeys, the changing landscape of European borders must be taken into consideration.
The Schengen Agreement
Meant to facilitate easy travel between regionally connected countries, the Schengen Agreement removed many border controls when passing through borders in Europe. For many years, the Schengen Zone allowed quick and easy travel between the 26 member countries in the Eurozone.
The European Union initially introduced the agreement as a way for the millions of people who live in the region to travel between countries more quickly. It was considered to be a way of showing that borders can still be controlled while remaining open to citizens.
However, it has recently been a topic for debate as Germany, Slovenia, and Sweden continue to tighten border controls in an effort to deal with increasing migrant numbers. The region, on the whole, is seeing huge changes made to protect border security that could affect the average traveler on vacation.
Europe Tightening Its Borders
Before the recent occurences in France, several member countries had already taken steps to contain their borders from the influx of refugees, with some even building fences to control the stream of migrants into the country. A thwarted attack on a Paris train also started the conversation of tightening security in France.
The pressure to close borders is most felt in France right now, as it takes extra measures to ensure safe passage while also remaining vigilant for any suspicious activity. In France, the Schengen agreement has currently been suspended, and borders shared with Italy and elsewhere are now under the control of French police. In the area of Germany that shares a border with France, random border stops and checks have already been implemented.
The leaders of the Czech Republic recently announced new restrictions to protect against any threats that may accompany refugees, and Poland has said that they will no longer be admitting entry to any asylum-seekers. Even Sweden, long known as a place for safe passage and refuge, has started to consider new methods of controlling immigration.
How This Affects Travelers
Because open borders helped to facilitate the movement of people easily throughout the European Union, it is likely that in the wake of the Paris attacks there will be longer term fortifications, and the Schengen Zone - already being debated - may be in danger.
However, many residents of the European Union continue to support open travel even in the face of risks. It seems as though many of the precautions taken will be more similar to those when crossing US borders, with police presences on the look out for suspicious activities.
The key to remember for anyone traveling to the European Union is that these measures are being undertaken to assure the safety of visitors and residents alike. As a foreign traveler on vacation, entering the continent and crossing borders will still be an easy task; just be sure to have proper identification and travel documents (passport and international driver's license) on you at all times to ensure smooth passage.