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17th Aug 2017

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Impact of the refugee crisis on the EU transport sector

  • A full re-establishment of border controls within Schengen could discourage tourists from travelling within Europe (Photo: Lee Kelleher)

The deteriorating refugee crisis highlights how the lack of a comprehensive EU migration and asylum system seriously affects the EU economy, especially the transport sector and networks.

On 3 March, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group of the European Parliament hosted a hearing on the human and economic impact of the refugee crisis on the EU transport sector.

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ALDE MEPs Matthijs Van Miltenburg and Angelika Mlinar, co-hosts of the hearing, along with EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc and key players in the sector discussed the financial and social consequences of reintroducing border controls and the challenges facing Schengen.

Calling for a common European asylum and migration policy, Van Miltenburg warned that “the lack of a coherent and common EU approach to the refugee crisis is having a negative effect on the European transport sector.

"From Hungary to Germany, from Denmark to Britain, governments have introduced border controls, erected fences and suspended public transport. These changes are also starting to hit the tourism sector. Without a comprehensive EU approach, our transport sector will continue to be forced to bear the consequences,” he said.

"Our failure to find a European response to the refugee crisis is now starting to hit the European transport sector, with direct consequences for the daily activities of EU citizens,” Mlinar added.

"A number of studies have made it clear that the costs of a further deterioration of the Schengen agreement are incredibly high and the transport sector would be one of the hardest hit sectors. We need to clamp down on people traffickers much more effectively and instead work to provide safe and legal routes to Europe for both asylum seekers and migrants."

The European Commission estimates that a full re-establishment of border controls within Schengen would have a direct cost of €5 billion to €18 billion. The road transport of goods would become more expensive, workers would lose time crossing borders and tourists could be discouraged from travelling within Europe, the Commission predicted.

Transport to lose billions from EU border checks

An increase in internal border controls could cause transport firms to lose €10 billion in annual revenues, with the European Commission reportedly citing conservative estimates of around €6 billion.

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.

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