Dismantling Cross-border Mobility: France may suspend Schengen agreement

by Fiona Ferbrache

Around 20,000 immigrants in Italy, mainly of Tunisian origin, have been issued six-month residency permits in an agreement made between the two countries (Frenzen, 2011).  This action follows the large numbers of Tunisians arriving in Italy over the last couple of months and is an attempt to manage migrant flows within and into Europe.  While measures undertaken in Italy are welcomed by some (Frenzen, 2011), the implications have raised concern for fellow Schengen members.  As the Europa (2009) website specifies, “the Schengen area represents a territory where the free movement of persons is guaranteed”.  Thus, persons granted the right to residency in Italy are able to take advantage of the lack of border controls between Schengen states and move between twenty-four countries.

France is one country concerned with the implications of Italy’s recent arrangements, and suggests temporarily suspending the Schengen agreement in order to cope with the influx of immigrants (Le Monde, 2011; Waterfield, 2011).  Franco-Italian talks are taking place today in Rome, between the heads of state, and we await the outcome.  This unfolding situation has consequences for the role of borders, migration controls and people within Europe and beyond.

These border and mobility issues interlink closely with two articles in Area.  The first is Medeiros’ (2010) paper examining cross-border cooperation within Europe, specifically between Portugal and Spain, and Norway and Sweden, as representative of older and more recent examples of border relations.  The second is van der Velde and van Naerssen’s (forthcoming) paper on European cross-border mobility and immobility.  Both papers consider border regions and government initiatives to develop cooperation, and provide useful academic perspectives through which to view today’s sensitive issues being debated in Rome.

Europa (2009) The Schengen area and cooperation. Accessed 23 April, 2011.

Frenzen, N.W. (2011) Italy-Tunisia Reach Migration Agreement: 6 month residency permits for Tunisians already in Italy; accelerated return procedures for newly arrived Tunisians. Migrants at Sea. Accessed 23 April, 2011.

Le Monde (2011) Migrants tunisiens : la France envisage de suspendre les accords de Schengen.  Le Politique.  22 April, 2011.

Medeiros, E.J.R. (2010) Old vs recent cross-border cooperation: Portugal–Spain and Norway–Sweden. Area. 42,4. pp.434-443

van der Velde, M. and van Naerssen, T. (forthcoming) People, borders, trajectories: an approach to cross-border mobility and immobility in and to the European Union. Area.

Waterfield, B. (2011) France threatens to ‘suspend’ Schengen Treaty. The Telegraph.  22 April, 2011.


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