Sunday

26th Feb 2017

EU businesses push for hi-tech solutions to save Schengen

  • "We have to save Schengen. If it collapses, the internal market will collapse", Business Europe's president, Emma Marcegaglia said. (Photo: BUSINESSEUROPE)

Europe's largest business organisation, Business Europe, pledged on Thursday (3 March) to present a plan for an advanced European border system within a week to save the Schengen area.

"We have to save Schengen. If it collapses, the internal market will collapse", president of Business Europe, Emma Marcegaglia, told members of the group, representing enterprises in 34 European countries.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "In my view a political decision of the concept should be taken at the latest at the summit on 17 March", said Maria Joao Rodrigues, Portuguese MEP and S&D Group Vice-President. (Photo: BUSINESSEUROPE)

"It is time for the business community to commit to give ideas to solve the problems", she said.

Marcegaglia said she did not think of controlling borders with walls but "with digitalisation, with drones, using technology".

"We are talking about an investment of €30-50 billion per year and made by European companies using their technology and skills and to show that the problem can be solved," she said.

Following a round of phone calls to member associations, Emma Marcegaglia said she expected commitments to present a concrete plan sometime next week, just in time for the upcoming March EU summits on migration.

Limited time

The European Commission has said it would present its proposal on so-called smart borders this spring.

The idea of a European external border control system has circulated for some time, and has several origins. One of them is Maria Joao Rodrigues, a Portuguese MEP and vice-president of the S&D social-democratic group in charge of economic and social policies.

"I am very pleased that the business community is also supporting this idea, which will now have many shapes," she told EUobserver.

"We have the special summit on 7 March and the 17 March summit and in between we have regional elections in Germany," she noted.

"The risk is in particular with the elections in Germany, which could undermine the support for the current government and strengthen the position of those who want to come back to national borders. So this is why we need to come up with big ideas to prevent this risk," she said.

"My basic assumption is that if you want to stop this dangerous trend to go back to national borders, we need to build up a real European border. It should not be the kind of wall we have in Hungary but an infrastructure providing services of public interest. Managing information, logistics, mobility of all these people for the relocation across Europe and proper accommodation. It is a system, an advanced infrastructure and not a wall," said Rodrigues, who, as an expert in EU political economy, is known as the "mother of the Lisbon Strategy" on innovation.

"This is a big investment, which can also create a lot of jobs, because we need recruiting people for all these functions. In my view a political decision of the concept should be taken at the latest at the summit on 17 March," she said.

Man on the Moon project

The price of a Schengen collapse has been calculated by the EU commission as 57 million road transport journeys a year, worth at least €3 billion.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung found in its study that losses could reach €470 billion for the years 2016 to 2025. A third estimate from France suggested that trade between Schengen countries would drop 10-20 percent.

"People want the power of the EU institutions used to solve the problem of immigration. It is a challenge for Europe to show what it is worth", Hans de Boer, president of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers, VNO-NC, said to the business audience.

"We have made some Dutch calculations showing that if you would build an intelligent system, not a wall, but a datadriven, high-tech border system, which would also encompass high-quality refugee camps outside of the border it might be a project that would cost on yearly basis around €50 billion which is less than half a percentage of Europe's GDP."

"We would have a project, which would be liked and would be endorsed by the European population. Something like, let's say the man on the moon project by [former US leader] Kennedy," De Boer said.

Would the euro really be in danger without Schengen?

EU Commission president Juncker and chancellor Merkel say there is a direct link between the euro and Schengen, but the single market would not necessarily falter with the reintroduction of border controls.

MEPs question EU border guard proposal

Leftist and Green MEPs criticise proposals that would allow EU border guards greater powers to intervene in member states, questioning legal responsibility for rights violations.

EU ministers to discuss 'smart borders'

EU ministers in Luxembourg Thursday will discuss how to use technology and whether to set up an EU border guard corps to better secure external borders.

Stakeholder

Impact of the refugee crisis on the EU transport sector

The ALDE Group recently hosted a hearing on the human and economic impact of the refugee crisis on the EU transport sector, which would be one of the hardest hit sectors if the Schengen system falls apart.

Losing Schengen would hurt EU businesses

Systematic border controls would cost €53 to €130 for every European citizen, according to estimates, but the transport industry is already feeling the pain of border checks within the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations