Press release: On the 35th anniversary of the Schengen Agreement, youth civil society and political organisations call to reverse all border closures
14 JUNE 2020
Today, on the 14th of June 2020, the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Schengen Agreement, the Young European Federalists, along with 10 European youth civil society and political organisations, have launched an appeal to call on citizens and those in power to embrace the spirit of Schengen and think beyond borders.
As stated in the appeal: “On this day, 35 years after the signing of the Schengen Agreement, we – the next generation of Europeans, young civil society activists and political youth organisations speaking on behalf of youth across the Union – call on our fellow citizens and to those among them in positions of power to embrace the spirit of Schengen, defend our common values, think beyond borders! Pursue the path of European unity of action, reverse all border closures, so that we can build a free and united Europe together.”
Read the full appeal below.
Youth Civil Society Appeal on the 35th anniversary of the Schengen Treaty
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Member States closed the borders between each other, putting an end to the free movement of people or the transit of goods, including crucial medical equipment. And while, thankfully, the latter was short-lived, not all is well on our European continent.
With the lockdowns gradually coming to an end across the Union, some borders are being reopened, some others are not. During the pandemic we saw the repetition of a too often experienced worst case scenario: no coordination on the “temporary” closure of internal borders, violating the spirit – if not the letter – of the Schengen Agreement, as well as the basic rights of Europeans, particularly those of people living in cross-border regions.
If we have learnt anything in the past months, it’s that the virus does not know of national borders. It is first and foremost physical distancing between individuals, along with other temporary and exceptional lockdown measures and restrictions to local movement, that have proven most successful in slowing the spread, rather than intra-Europe travel bans. Closing borders must have felt like a safe decision, even an act of determination from the comfort of capital cities, but all it goes to show is that some have not understood how border regions in the EU have grown organically together.
Families from Vroenhoven in Belgian Flanders are a slingshot away from their regular supermarket in Maastricht, in the Netherlands – but further away from similar stores in Belgium. Grocery shopping ‘abroad’, even if it was the closest supermarket, was even fined up to 250 Euros in Belgium. Closing the German-Polish border was allegedly aimed at safeguarding the health and security of citizens in Poland – but left thousands of citizens from the Baltic countries stuck in interminable queues on German highways. Reinstating the border between Gorizia, in Italy, and Nova Gorica, in Slovenia, does nothing to slow the spread of the virus – but reopens painful wounds of a past when Europeans fought against each other.
The list could go on, but this nonsense must stop. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed, and not for the first time, that a lack of coordinated action can cause severe damage to the European people. We, as societies and human beings, are innately fragile. The insufficiency of existing multilateral structures has left national governments all across Europe and the world to protect their own citizens and interests as well as they could, and so many have been overwhelmed. It should by now be evident that countries alone are not equipped to face and cope with the transnational challenges impacting on our present and future. And while the pandemic revealed the resilience of EU institutions, it also exposed the profound need to pursue with renewed and greater passion the process of European integration.
On this day, 35 years after the signing of the Schengen Agreement, we – the next generation of Europeans, young civil society activists and political youth organisations speaking on behalf of youth across the Union – call on our fellow citizens and to those among them in positions of power to embrace the spirit of Schengen, defend our common values, think beyond borders! Pursue the path of European unity of action, reverse all border closures, so that we can build a free and united Europe together.
Signatories by June 14, 2020:
Young European Federalists (JEF)
European Youth Forum (YFJ)
European Liberal Youth (LYMEC)
European Student Think Tank (EST)
European Students’ Forum (AEGEE)
Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG)
Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO)
International Federation of Catholic Parochial Youth Movements in Europe (FIMCAP Europe)
Young European Socialists (YES)