As we predicted in a blog post from November, the ceaseless migrations into Europe from Afghanistan, Syria, and other Middle East countries are rapidly eroding one of the cornerstones of European “unity”—the freedom to cross national borders with a minimum of stress and documentation.
This past weekend, Sweden (a prime target for destitute migrants looking for security, habitability, and a reasonable modicum of social assistance/welfare) imposed new identity-check protocols for travellers entering from Denmark; the Danes, for their part, immediately pumped up border controls with Germany.
According to a The New York Times report, this means that travellers to Sweden from Denmark will have to show valid IDs with photos and passports for the first time in over 50 years. Similarly, travellers between Denmark and Germany will have to show their personal documentation to border agents for the first time since 2001.
The fact that these border checks are being imposed in the Nordic countries—which have prided themselves of their generosity and compassion for migrants—is highly significant and a beacon to be tracked by other countries caught up in open-arms policies.
A Swedish hate crimes researcher was quoted in The New York Times emphasizing that the Swedes are now split on the issue of absorbing growing tides of migrants: “Some people see it as a duty to help as many migrants as we can. But others argue that Sweden, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and California, must be very vigilant, secure its borders, and prevent terrorists pretending to be migrants from entering.”
These developments mean that tourists and other travellers from Canada and the U.S. need to be doubly vigilant of evolving border rules and ensure their passports and other travel documents are up to date and in order, since border countries in any of the 26 Schengen Agreement countries can drop the gates and activate border inspections literally overnight. The Danish prime minister announced his government’s intention to impose controls at its border with Germany on New Year’s Day (Friday), and the inspections were activated by the following Monday (January 4).
The Hungarians acted even faster a couple of months ago: they rolled out razor wire barriers at several crossing points from Austria overnight, and then announced what they had done the following morning.
Under the Schengen Agreement, travellers from Canada or the U.S. do not require visas to enter any of the Schengen countries for stays under 90 consecutive days (i.e., their passports will suffice). And during those 90 days, they can travel throughout the area without even having to produce their passports when crossing into other Schengen countries. At least that’s the way it was until the events in Paris.
Now, crossing borders throughout the EU and a few non-EU countries that are members of Schengen has become a crapshoot. Yesterday’s rules may not be valid tomorrow. So be prepared with up-to-date passports and other documentation (some countries require proof of at least €30,000 worth of private health insurance) and keep in daily touch with government travel advisories at least daily for several weeks before your trip, and throughout the duration of your trip.