The defective management of the refugee crisis by the European states determined the adoption of a number of actions that weren’t coordinated inside the EU. Consequently, a chain reaction triggered in Hungary gradually led to the conditioned reintroduction of checks on the internal borders of the EU by Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Furthermore, after Paris became the target of terrorist acts at the end of 2015, border controls were also introduced on the national borders of France (with Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland). German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that the viability of the Eurozone depends on the Schengen Area. At the same time, according to French estimates, the reintroduction of border checks in the Schengen would cause the EU economy to incur enormous costs (at least €110 billion until 2025).
In general, the fundamental principles of the EU and the free circulation of goods and people are elements of the European construction that are most powerfully shaken due to the fissures in the Schengen Area. These problems affect first of all the interests of the business community and the people of the EU. The question is if this problem, which apparently refers strictly to the EU, can have implications for Moldova?
For now, the partial reintroduction of controls inside the Schengen area (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, etc.) creates inconvenience in the transportation of goods and persons for the EU people and businesses. Similar effects will be felt by the commercial partners of the EU. So, the commercial flows to and from the EU risk being affected by the effects of the Schengen crisis sooner or later. Consequently, the import and export operations involving Moldova, which is a beneficiary of the liberalized commercial regime with the EU (DCFTA), could meet with physical blockages on the internal borders of the Schengen Area. Inevitably, these blockages will cause costs which the authorities of Moldova should discuss with Moldovan exporters, while Brussels should discuss with the European exporters interested in the Moldovan market.
Besides exporters and importers, the ordinary European citizens who travel daily by land transport, from one European country to another, for work, studies or other purposes, can also be affected. Thus, the mobility of the labor force and inter-personal contacts are the worst hit.
This also applies to the Romanian citizens, even if Romania is not part of the Schengen Area. The effects of the controls reintroduced in the Schengen Area will not avoid the Moldovans with Romanian passports and, indirectly, those with Moldovan biometric passports. Thus, the latter ones could witness longer lines at the internal border crossing points of the EU (from and to Germany, Sweden, Denmark etc.). Theoretically, the European citizens who travel by planes will be the least affected.
Liberalization of visas for Moldova
The abolition of the Schengen visas for Moldovans and the possibility of travelling with biometric passports in Europe (90 days during 180 days) represents the main trump card of the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU. During a year of visa-free regime, the Moldovans saved about €14 million (400,000 Moldovans didn’t need the Schengen visa, which costs €35).
It is yet evident that the current turbulence through which the Schengen Area goes does not have direct implications for the visa-free regime with the EU as the reintroduction of border controls inside the Schengen Area has no connection with the visa policy.
According to pessimistic scenarios, the transformations in the Schengen area, related to the worsening of the refugee crisis, could lead to the simplification of the preconditions that will allow the EU states to temporarily reintroduce the Schengen visas for such countries as Moldova.
Instead of conclusion...
Surely, the border checks reintroduced by some of the Schengen countries hamper mobility and inter-human contacts in Europe and cause particular social and economic costs. But this does not annul the free movement of the European citizens who, together with the movement of goods, services and capital, is guaranteed by the European treaties. Thus, the Moldovans with Romanian passports, as the other European citizens, will continue to travel freely in Europe.
In the short and medium term, the Schengen crisis does not negatively influence the visa-free regime for Moldova, but the durability of the regime depends a lot on the subsequent mutations in the Schengen Area, correlated with the worsening of the refugee crisis.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
Follow Dionis Cenuşa on Twitter
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.