THE ZIKA PROGNOSIS: DIAGNOSING EL SALVADOR’S UNIQUE STRUGGLE WITH ZIKA VIRUS

By Bailey Marsheck
Staff Writer

In January of 2016, in response to the rapid spread of Zika virus in El Salvador and surrounding Latin American countries, El Salvador’s Health Ministry Department put out a statement suggesting that women should avoid conceiving children until 2018, or until progress could be made on a vaccine for Zika. Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza clarified the statement by explaining, “We [Ministry of Public Health] are giving a recommendation, it’s not prohibition or a birth control measure. These children are going to need neurological help for the rest of their lives.” (“El Salvador Launches Fight…”) As the most recent mosquito-borne virus to infect the global population, Zika virus has emerged as a dangerous new public health issue for thousands of unborn children. However, Zika virus is not considered a life-threatening disease in the majority of instances. Most adult victims never know that they have been infected, and only one out of every five infected exhibit any of the disease’s effects. A fever is the most notable marker of the disease for the small percentage of those infected that show symptoms, but rashes, vomiting and muscle pains are also known indicators of Zika virus. It has been linked to cases of the autoimmune Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can be fatal. However, Zika’s typically mild symptoms often lead to its misdiagnosis as a more common illness (“Symptoms, Diagnosis…”).

Although Zika virus is rarely fatal to adults, El Salvador’s governmental advisory was issued to address Zika’s potential to harm fetuses. The difficulty of identifying the disease makes Zika virus an especially significant threat to pregnant women. An infected mother could lack any symptoms while the virus passes unnoticed through her amniotic fluid to the unborn child. The outbreak of Zika virus has a strong correlation, confirmed to be a “causal relationship” by researchers, to the increasing number of babies born with the microcephaly birth defect. Zika slows fetal development by cutting off placental blood flow to the fetus and attacking the brain’s stem cells. Microcephaly causes a child to be born with a dangerously small brain and head, which slows brain development and makes it harder to function as the child matures. The perceived threat to El Salvador’s unborn population has revived debates surrounding the decision of women to avoid pregnancy altogether. This is bringing attention to the socially subordinate position of Salvadorian women and their limited capacity to make such choices in a sociopolitical context where women are disempowered by “Machismo” culture, anti-abortion laws and the strict beliefs of the Salvadorian Catholic Church. The government’s proposal is meant to reduce the country’s rate of reproduction in order slow the virus’s spread, and minimize the number of microcephaly-afflicted newborns whose needs will pose economic difficulties for the country throughout their lifespans. Although the Salvadorian government has not yet taken steps to incentivize or enforce any restrictive policies, the public recommendation that women should postpone becoming pregnant is noteworthy within the context of El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws and predominantly Roman Catholic culture.

The simplest option for women choosing to heed the government’s Zika warning would be to delay pregnancy. But many women attempting anti-natalist action through abstinence or contraceptive-use face harsh consequences in the domestic sphere, where El Salvador’s “machismo” culture can be an even more restrictive force than the law of the state. Machismo accounts for a heightening of emphasis on gender roles. It shapes the concept of an ideal man as being hyper-masculine and dominant over women, often leaving women as a physical outlet for male frustration. In a household structure where men hold a great majority of the power, having children is seen as one of a woman’s main roles in society. Domestic abuse is becoming more prevalent, hinting at a culture of institutional oppression and violence against women. In 2011, El Salvador had the highest rate of femicide in the world (“Central America: Femicides and…”), revealing the intentional and inadvertent consequences of habitual domestic violence against women. Violence and rape is ignored because women are viewed as possessions, subject to the whims of their husbands, and because those in power to stop such abuse are often a part of the same culture that they are supposed to deter. Salvadorian policewomen have confirmed this by publicly criticizing judges and their male counterparts for contributing to damaging gender norms. Silvia Juárez of the Violence Observatory at ORMUSA claims that the impunity rate, or the proportion of crimes where the perpetrator is not brought to justice, for crimes against women is 98% (“El Salvador: Crisis of Masculinity…”). Many of the domestic violence cases that are reported result in authorities telling women to work it out with their partners, which often deters these women from going to the police in future cases of abuse. The institutional disregard for the health of women in society, demonstrated by the high occurrence rate of rape and violence against women, suggests that avoiding pregnancy might not be a viable course of action for Salvadorian women.

Zika’s threat to fetuses may drive pregnant woman to seek anti-natalist action through an abortion. This is an impossibility from a legal standpoint, because abortion in El Salvador is illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, and concern over the health of the mother. El Salvador’s constitution had previously contained exceptions for protecting the health of mothers and for victims of rape. However in 1998, the constitution was amended to ban abortion in all cases. Many countries have trended towards more liberal abortion policies since 1998, but El Salvador is one of two countries in Latin America to have implemented more restrictive policies between 1998 and 2007 (“Global Trend of Expanding Legal…”). The ban has not had its intended effect of ending abortions in El Salvador; it has only led women to attempt abortions on their own, through less conventional means. There is no safe space for these women. Many of those who have been prosecuted for attempted abortion were reported by the very hospitals in which they sought personal safety. Illegal abortions can have severe criminal or fatal consequences in El Salvador, and any woman suspected of an attempted abortion can be tried for homicide and jailed without bail. Women have resorted to hazardous abortion methods utilizing clothes hangers or even battery acid. Because of the strict abortion laws and prosecution of those who attempt illegal abortions, women must do everything in their power to keep attempted abortions a secret within their households.

One of the main factors for the ban on all forms of abortion is the Roman Catholic Church. Its influence is exemplified by a 2013 case involving a woman known by the pseudonym “Beatriz,” who became severely ill with lupus while pregnant. She received counsel from her doctors to terminate her pregnancy, since the fetus was confirmed to be missing part of its brain and skull and was not expected to live more than a few days. Beatriz went to court in hopes of being granted access to an abortion. The case went to the El Salvadorian Supreme Court, where the Roman Catholic Church lobbied heavily against Beatriz. The court eventually ruled against the legality of an abortion in these circumstances. Although Beatriz ended up living, the child survived all of a few hours. Even though the fetus couldn’t have survived for more than a few days, its life was valued over that of the mother, in the eyes of the court (“A High-Risk Pregnancy…”). With an influential force like the Catholic Church actively fighting against the legalization of abortion, pregnant women have little hope of protection within El Salvador’s judicial system.

The Salvadorian government’s attempt to encourage women to delay pregnancy emphasizes both the severity of Zika’s effects on the population as well as the state’s failure to combat the virus’s spread through more comprehensive means. El Salvador is a country torn apart by violence and distrust of the government, making it nearly impossible to institute nationwide policies to combat the Zika virus. There were 2,474 new infections in the first three weeks of January alone, many of which surfaced in areas so afflicted by gang wars and violence that the government has had trouble providing aid to the infected. Some residents in gang-controlled areas even see the government’s attempts to educate the population as a conspiracy to re-establish authority in areas where it has lost control. Brazil’s attempt to eradicate the virus by eliminating still water breeding grounds for mosquitos has been endorsed by many experts as the most effective way of fighting the virus until medical research for some type of vaccine is completed. This promising potential solution is impossible to apply in regions of El Salvador where the government has relinquished control to gangs. Fear of violent retaliation from gang members leaves citizens both too afraid to cooperate with the government, and ignorant of the disease’s potential connection to the microcephaly birth defect. El Salvador’s lack of practical solutions to Zika virus makes the debate surrounding abortion and the use of contraceptives all the more relevant.
The Health Ministry’s stance on pregnancy also serves to highlight a contrast of opinions between the country’s older and younger populations.

Roman Catholicism is on the decline in El Salvador and the rest of Latin America, with younger generations turning towards Protestantism or atheism at an increasing rate. The change in religious demographics could lead to a revision of abortion laws as Roman Catholicism slowly loses influence in the population and the government. With Zika virus currently hurting newborns the most, the country’s struggle to prevent Zika’s spread could seriously affect the demographics of the next generation. El Salvador is in Stage Three of the Demographic Transition model, characterized by a slowing of population growth and birth rates along with an increase in age of the population (“Stage 5 of the Demographic…”). The Demographic Transition Model categorizes countries into stages one through five, using trends in birth and death rates to predict how the population demographic will change. If Zika virus and the government’s advisory were to have a significant effect on fertility rates in El Salvador, the country could feasibly skip directly to Stage Five, where death rates exceed birth rates and the country falls into a steady population decline. A decrease or complete cessation of pregnancies would have disastrous effects in 20 years, when the generation affected by Zika would reach adulthood and face a shrunken workforce and stunted economic growth. Despite the possible repercussions of decreasing birth rates, the government also can’t ignore the plight of pregnant women struggling with poverty in El Salvador. A notable percentage of these women are teenagers carrying children conceived through rape, who can’t afford to provide for the special needs of a child with the microcephaly birth defect, yet have no alternative because of the current abortion laws. Unless the government can slow the spread of Zika soon, which has proven resoundingly unsuccessful so far, it may have no choice but to institute a more effective anti-natalist policy.

Some El Salvadorian women are taking the health warnings seriously and making conscious efforts to avoid conception through any possible means, but the effectiveness of government suggestions will remain minimal as long as the Roman Catholic Church and its pro-natalist religious beliefs retain power over a majority of the population. Most women simply don’t have the choice to avoid childbirth because of their subordinate positions in family and society, and their inability to access safe abortions. El Salvador is torn between old Roman Catholicism and younger, more progressive views, as the fates of future generations hang in the balance. Research on Zika virus is still in the beginning stages, and experts are still struggling to understand its transmission and spread. As Zika spreads further and countries exhaust their potential solutions to slow its advance, the call for reform of El Salvador’s abortion and natalist policies will only get more deafening.

Bibliography

“El Salvador Launches Fight against Zika – BBC News.” BBC News. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.
“Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.
“New Report: Global Trend of Expanding Legal Abortion Services Continues.” Center for Reproductive Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
“Central America: Femicides and Gender-Based Violence.” CGRS. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
“El Salvador: Crisis of Masculinity in a Machista Society.” OpenDemocracy. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Zabludovsky, Karla. “A High-Risk Pregnancy Is Terminated. But Was It an Abortion?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
“Stage 5 of the Demographic Transition Model.” Population Education. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Image by Joshua E. Cogan

ÁSATRÚARFÉLAGIÐ: A NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT IN ICELAND

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By Omkar Mahajan
Editor-in-Chief

I’ve always been fascinated with Vikings since I was little. It was the Norse mythology and religion that piqued my curiosity. The Norse polytheistic religion was widespread throughout Scandinavia and Northern Europe from the 8th to 11th centuries. Afterwards, the religion died out and was replaced by Christianity. Recently, the Norse religion has abruptly seen a resurgence in Iceland. This is due to the efforts of the organization Ásatrúarfélagið, which promotes Asatru, or Norse pantheism.

A Brief History
Of course, it’s essential to ascertain some context and discuss a brief saga of the Vikings and their religion. The Norse religion was a polytheistic religion with numerous deities and the vikings were a seafaring people who lived in what is now modern day Scandinavia. There are stories of gods such as Thor and Odin who fought battles with demons and monsters and legendary heroes like Ragnar Lodbrok and Bjorn Ironside who conquered neighboring kingdoms. The Sagas illuminate the history of the creation of the Norse kingdoms.

While it is debatable whether heroes like Ragnar Lodbrok and Bjorn Ironside actually existed, no one can deny the ferocity of the myths and legends that portrayed them. Later Sagas extrapolate the exploits of real life individuals such as explorers Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson who were were the first Europeans to venture to the Americas. Erik the Red founded the first Norse Settlement on the American continent by establishing a colony on modern-day Greenland. His son, Leif Eriksson, reached as far south as Canada and established minor settlements there although none of them were permanent. The Vikings were efficacious seafaring voyagers.

However, it wasn’t until modern times that history books finally attributed Leif Eriksson with the distinction of the first European to reach the Americas. Until then, most people believed that it was Christopher Columbus who traversed to the Americas before any other European. Nonetheless, religion and mythology played a huge defining rule in the culture of the Vikings. In fact, the decline of the Norse religion is generally considered to be the end of the Viking era as that was when the Scandinavian kingdoms formally adopted Christianity. Despite this, I was astounded and intrigued to learn that recently in Iceland, there has been a sudden revival in the Norse religion coupled with a marked decline in Christianity.

Ásatrúarfélagið Today
Iceland, for the first time in centuries, is now officially worshipping Norse gods again. The last time Norse gods such as Odin, Thor and Frigg were worshipped was 973 years ago when Iceland formally converted to Christianity. Ásatrúarfélagið, an Icelandic religious organization promoting faith and belief in the Norse gods, is the association behind the sudden rise in worship of these deities. It’s high priest, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, was able to raise sufficient funds and permission from the Icelandic government to construct the first Norse worshipping temple in over a 1000 years. As many people in Iceland are turning away from organized religions such as Christianity and are instead approaching atheism or embracing non-Abrahamic faiths such as Buddhism, the Norse religion is expected to see a rise in membership as people leave the Christian church.

I’ve often wondered what the early interactions between the polytheistic Vikings and the monotheistic Christians were. Movies, literature, and media forms have regularly illustrated such interactions between the two groups as violent and gory based on differences in principle. While we can only speculate what exactly occurred during their encounters, some professors believe that misunderstandings and confusions were common and rather the root cause of conflict instead of simply a difference in belief being the catalyst for violence. Indeed, it’s likely that early Christian missionaries and officials who first confronted the Norse religion aptly interpreted the Norse gods as demonic beings and deemed the Vikings as people that needed to be saved.

Professor of Theology from Emory University, Luke Timothy Johnson, highlighted his viewpoints regarding relations between Christians and the Vikings in a statement to the news forum, Big Think.

Christian mission has always positioned itself as a rescue operation, that people were in desperate straits, were indeed under the influence of demons. … It is impossible to read the reflections of Marcus Aurelius … and not recognize a profound mode of religious expression. … It is impossible … not to recognize that [paganism] is the furthest thing possible from the demonic. It is indeed a form of religious expression from which we can learn much, and at the very least we need to respect,” Johnson argued.

Although there is some credence to his argument, I respectfully disagree with some of his points. First, I don’t necessarily agree that Christian mission was always a rescue operation. If you don’t believe me, you can easily flip through a standardized history textbook and discover numerous instances of Christian conquerors forcibly mass converting thousands of native peoples, such as the Native Americans, to Christianity under the pretense that they were being saved. However, I do agree that the Norse religion, or paganism as he refers to it, was not demonic. If we are to believe his statements, it makes sense that some people who witnessed another group of people practicing an ideology that they thought was morally wrong, would try to save them, even though their idea of saving them is drastically and divergently different from our definition today.

Skeptical Viewpoints and Criticism Regarding Ásatrúarfélagið
Of course, as I heard more about this rise of this Norse religion in Iceland, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an actual religion actually being reestablished or if this was just a publicity stunt. I even wondered if it could have been something even worse, such as a cult. My suspicions were later put to rest when I further read that the Norse temple that was completed a few months ago, actually hosts wedding ceremonies and funerals. Additionally, Ásatrúarfélagið has been in existence since the 1970s. If you want more proof, then consider the fact that membership has tripled since its founding and now numbers a few thousand. While that may sound small, keep in mind that Iceland only has a population around 330,000. Furthermore, Ásatrúarfélagið is also a member of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions.[1]

Despite this, there have been sharp criticisms of this new religious movement. First, the religion lacks a fixed theology and dogma and many of the priests and religious officials active in the movement have adopted a pantheistic worldview. Moreover, there is no head religious official and members are not expected to follow any religious authority. Also, it has a checkered history. In the 1970s, some members held white supremacist beliefs and tried to incorporate elements of Nazism into this developing religious movement. One such member, Þorsteinn Guðjónsson, attempted to incorporate his beliefs of racial superiority and advance platforms of antiabortion and immigration reduction into the organization.[2] Additionally, literary folk scholar and Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Chicago, Stefanie von Schnurbein, characterized the group as a “mix of individualistic anarchists, atheistic church opponents, and racist spiritualists.”[3] Thus, one can lucidly see abundant negativities to this program.

Ásatrúarfélagið: A Progressive Movement?
In response to these criticisms, many members describe the organization as a movement with more of a spiritual focus than religious and that it doesn’t necessarily dispute other religious beliefs. The leader of the organization, Hilmarsson, explained in a statement to Reuters how the movement isn’t necessarily religious but rather focuses more on the elements of nature and the human mind instead.“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet. We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology,” Hilmarsson said.

Furthermore, in regards to racist individuals being present in this movement, I later found that Þorsteinn Guðjónsson and others like him were actually a minority in this organization and were unable to advance their racial theories and political beliefs in the movement so they subsequently left and formed reactionary far-rightwing fringe parties.[4] Finally, Icelandic anthropologist, María Erlendsdóttir, disputed and called into question Schnurbein’s claims by arguing that Schnurbein’s sample size was too small to reach any conclusion. According to Erlendsdóttir, Schnurbein only interviewed two members of this movement.[5] In her own book about Norse beliefs, she criticized Schnurbein’s conclusions arguing that “the heavy accusations of von Schnurbein contradict certain clues that Ásatrúarfélagið has an open mind to people of other cultures and races.”[6]

Erlendsdóttir does have a point about Ásatrúarfélagið being open minded. In fact, in a drastic contrast to most other organized forms of religion,  Ásatrúarfélagið has often supported and promoted progressive political issues. It has been instrumental in environmentalist protection clauses, has fought for same-sex marriage, and has argued for the separation of church and state. For instance, when Sigurjón Þórðarson, a member of this organization, was elected to the parliament in 2003, he stated his views that religion and state must be kept separate from each other.[7] Evidently, this movement is indeed openminded and progressive which makes it unique when contrasted with other religions.

Conclusion
After reading up on this religious movement, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ásatrúarfélagið carries more of a spiritual focus with a pantheistic worldview that honors the Norse gods rather than utilizing an organized doctrine and theology. Nevertheless, it is very enthralling since its membership increased in recent years, it has promoted progressive causes, has an interesting history, and renewed interest in the Viking sagas. While it is still early to tell whether this will be a lasting religious movement for a long time or just a loosely collected organization that will last only a few decades, it will be fascinating to see its course and progress in the future. Regardless of what path it takes, it has ensured that Norse mythology and Vikings will continue to live in our imaginations.

Photo by Artiom P

[1] Judith Schlehe and Evamaria Sandkuhler, Religion, Tradition and the Popular: Transcultural Views from Asia and Europe (Bielefeld: Verlag, 2014), 270.
[2] Pétur Pétursson, Asasamfundet på Island och massmedia. (Religionssociologiska institutet, 1985), 27.
[3] Stefanie von Schnurbein, Religion als Kulturkritik: Neugermanisches Heidentum im 20. (Jahrhundert: Winter, 1992), 181.
[4] Pétursson, Asasamfundet, 27
[5] María Erlendsdóttir. Pagan Beliefs in Modern Iceland. (University of Edinburgh, 2001), 27
[6] Erlendsdóttir, Pagan, 28
[7] Michael Strmiska, Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Religion in Contemporary Cultures), (ABC-CLIO, 2003), 170.

LOSING SCHENGEN: THE DETERIORATION OF THE EUROPEAN IDEA


By Lukas Ma

Staff Writer

Moving freely in Europe, from one country to another, is for many such a natural habit that it comes close to driving around in your neighbourhood. Whether it is a quick weekend break to Barcelona or just skiing in the Alps for a day, no police force will wait at the border to check visas. European integration, in terms of free movement, has become such a fostered concept that many cannot think how their lives would look without it. As a result, approximately 1.7 million people travel across European borders every day to go to work. However, in 2015 these uncomplicated mass movements of people turned into a problem when hundreds of thousands of migrants tried to reach Europe. Once these migrants got access to the Schengen Area, the region in which European countries eliminated border controls, they did not encounter any checks to prevent them from traveling to northern Europe. As more and more people streamed into Europe, the government of Hungary was the first to close its borders again, even going so far as to build a fence along its border to Serbia. Slovenia, Austria, Norway, Denmark and Germany have also adopted Hungary’s reintroduction of border controls. This could pose a serious threat not only to easy traveling, but especially to a core principle of the European Union: free movement of people.

In order to understand the legal framework of free movement, one has to look at its origin. In 1985, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, France and Germany signed the Schengen Agreement, which abolished general border checks between the signatory states. In 1990, Schengen II was signed, creating a single external border, establishing a common immigration and visa policy, and allowing for the free movement of persons, as we know it today. The second agreement also includes the Schengen Information System (SIS), a joint database for police forces of the different countries to use in order to enhance cooperation and coordination, safeguard security, and chase criminals transnationally. In total, the Schengen Area consists of 26 countries, including the four non-EU members: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. Since the Schengen cooperation became EU law under the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, all new member states that join the European Union must agree to the terms of the Schengen Agreement. Therefore, new members of the European Union, such as Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, have to adopt the Schengen Agreement at a later point in time, once they fulfil the formal requirements. The requirements lie mainly in the ability to secure its external border to non-Schengen countries. The only exempt EU members are the United Kingdom and Ireland, both of which agreed to collaboration with SIS, but opted out of the rest of the agreement, which includes the elimination of borders.

In September 2015, several Schengen countries temporarily abandoned the agreement and decided to re-establish control of their borders, defending their actions by citing the agreement’s clauses for exceptional cases. Their justifications for re-establishing border controls were based on the migration crisis in Europe and the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, all of which were made possible by the unchecked border crossings. Unilateral decisions to return to border controls are in accordance with the Schengen rules, which stipulate exceptions for cases of public order or national security, allow for a suspension of the agreement that can last for 10 days, with a possibility to extend the period up to two months. In foreseeable situations, such as a new influx of refugees, an extension of up to six months can be requested, with the ability to renew for a maximum of 30 days. In “exceptional circumstances [that] put the overall functioning of the area without internal border control at risk”, an up to two-year continuation under Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code can be invoked[1].

Although the legal exceptions granted by the Schengen Agreement give signatory countries the freedom to react in emergency situations, in the context of the current migration crisis, these exceptions could pose a threat to the agreement itself. As the war in Syria continues, refugees will continue to try to make their way to Europe, placing further political pressure on the liberty of free movement. Greece, the first European country through which the migration flow heads, is logistically incapable of coping with the thousands of migrants coming into the country. Under the Dublin Regulation approved in 2013, every migrant must be registered in the Schengen country that they set foot in first. However in the last year, many immigrants continued to northern Europe without their fingerprints being recorded in the country of first entrance. This violation provoked a lot of criticism from EU member states; individual governments reacted by pulling the emergency brake and closing their internal borders, which slowed down their own migration flows, but also created problems for transit countries that kept their borders open. As a direct result of the closures, thousands of stranded migrants have been forced to find alternative travel routes to the most popular destinations, Germany and Sweden.

These short sighted and uncoordinated solutions to counter the migration crisis have no potential to resolve the issue. Instead, they have delayed the flow of migrants and undermined the Schengen Agreement. If the fence building continues, Schengen will not be possible anymore, as all the member states rely on the countries with external borders to protect the community from illegal immigration. If the trust and willingness to cooperate disappears, then unilateral actions will be introduced, which will undermine the concept of a common immigration policy entirely. The only way to save the free movement of people in Europe is to secure the external borders of the Schengen Area, such as those of Greece. A joint European solution can solve the influx problem of migrants and assure that Schengen can be fully reinstalled.

Otherwise, the consequences of losing the Schengen agreement could be severe, not only for the individual European citizen who would no longer be able to travel without a passport, but also for the European economy and European Integration. The European Single Market is heavily reliant on the Agreement, which makes the fast transportation of goods between Schengen countries possible. On average, in member states, an individual saves 20 minutes of travel time when visiting another country because of the elimination of border controls. A reintroduction of border controls would take Europe back to the 1980s, when the crossings were full of lorries waiting to continue their journey. Since the lorry drivers’ waiting hours are included in their working hours, the transportation costs of perishable goods would rise again, as well as those of all other imported goods from other European countries. In addition to this, the travel time for individuals would rise, leading to negative effects on tourism in Europe. Overall predictions of the potential economic losses, projected by the Institute for Economic Research and the think thank France Stratégie, range from 26billion € to 100billion € per year for the Schengen countries.

Aside from the negative economic impact, the disintegration of Schengen would be an abandonment of European Integration. The free movement of people is one of the core principles the European project stands for, and its loss would be fatal. A surrender of free movement would be a blow for a further way to make European Unification complete. In addition, it would empower the anti-European right wing movements that take the finance crisis, the migration crisis and the terrorist’s attacks as evidence of the Union’s failure and as reason to go back to independent nation-states. It is time for Europeans to recollect the conception of the European Union, to remember that it’s founding ideas and principles were based on more than the convenience of faster travel journeys. At its origin, the EU was established to unify a scattered landscape of countries through an emphasis on a shared identity and sense of trust, something embodied by the Schengen Agreement’s principle of free movement and something which should be protected today.

[1] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1414687415278&uri=CELEX:02006R0562-20131126

 

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