A plan outlined by the European Commission on Friday to restore the fraying 26-nation Schengen open border area by year-end, cautioning that it would cost the European economy up to 18 billion euros ($19.7 bln) a year shall the passport-free travel collapses.
The EU executive recommended no new measures but set out a timetable to save the Schengen zone by December 2016, ahead of an emergency European Union summit with Turkey set for next Monday to discuss how to halt an influx of migrants that has driven several EU and Western Balkan states to re-impose border controls.
Before the upcoming warmer weather drives in more arrivals across the Mediterranean of people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and Africa the EU is scrambling to implement a strategy to control the inflow.
Noting that more than 135,000 arrived in Europe – mostly through Greece – so far this year after more than a million people entered the bloc in 2015, marching messily towards wealthier EU states, chiefly Germany and Sweden. Seven Schengen countries along with Germany have emergency border controls in place now and the Commission stated that it wanted them all lifted – if not before, but no later than December with an eye on fully restoring the partly-suspended area by the end of the year.
Economic growth fueled as open internal borders are currently seen as an important achievement of European integration that made travel easier, flourished tourism and facilitated trade and supply chains across the bloc.
The Commission reported that it estimated the direct cost of a full restoration of border controls inside the Schengen zone at 5 to 18 billion euros a year; that with additional administrative and second-wave costs on top of that.
In regard of the first hit, it would be the transport and tourism sectors, as well as the people who commute to work daily across borders.
However, JPMorgan Chase noted to clients and said that the direct impact of an imposition of selective border controls, more likely than a complete lockdown, would be “small in business cycle terms”.