First came the howls of protests from French politicians as Italy gave Tunisian refugees residence permits, allowing them to travel freely throughout the continent’s open borders zone.
Then came the threats of stronger national border controls – something that many argue flies in the face of the Schengen zone’s principal of free movement. Now Denmark, reacting to pressure from nationalists, has become the first country to introduce more stringent controls on its land borders, sparking anger across the European Union.
German commentators in The Local’s media roundup admitted there are no easy solutions to the continent’s problems, which also include trouble with the euro currency and an ongoing sovereign debt crisis. But they too reacted with outrage at the Danish move and expressed alarm at the future of a united Europe.
Berlin’s centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel wrote that something was “rotten in Europe” and argued that political survival had become more important to politicians than promoting European ideals of openness. The union could eventually be “destroyed” by this, it argued.
“Everywhere, right-wing populists peddle simple recipes. They are always the same. They suggest that only the borders be closed and the euro be abandoned in order to keep out refugees and resolve the crisis of the common currency.
“Europe – for some it is a promise, a dream. For others, and their number is growing alarmingly these days, it is a shock structure, a forced community, a source of unreasonable demands.”
The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung argued that the EU has moved so rapidly towards integration that pro-Europe and anti-Europe factions have been put on an epic collision course, magnified by the EU’s current crises.
“The EU-optimists and Euro-sceptics are meeting now. Some complain that Europe is not speaking with one voice and often persists in national small-state thinking. To them, the EU is too little Europe. For the others, the EU is too hazardous for sovereignty, too bureaucratic, too egalitarian.”
The left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau wrote that European governments were recklessly sacrificing ideals for the sake of domestic politics.
“Two things are symbolic of Europe and facilitate the everyday life of citizens immensely: the euro and the right to travel freely. The euro is threatening to implode as the single currency. The Schengen Agreement still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, it is infuriating how recklessly European governments play with these achievements for domestic policy. Worse, the community lets its agenda on sensitive questions be dictated by right-wing populists.”
Regional newspapers weighed in too. Munich’s Münchner Merkur wrote that the Danish move was a “violation of the spirit of the Schengen Agreement.” It added: “The governments of Europe must not wobble and must defend the freedom of movement for citizens.”
And the Sächsische Zeitung in Dresden argued that nationalism was trumping the ideal of community and added that “for the future of the EU, this promises nothing good.”