Europe’s Border Quandaries in a New Age of Exodus and Terror

A gnarled ivy trunk delineates a stark boundary on a wall in the old city of Zagreb, Croatia near the Museum of Broken Relationships. Photograph by Saleem H. Ali
A gnarled ivy trunk delineates a stark boundary on a wall in the old city of Zagreb, Croatia near the Museum of Broken Relationships. Photograph by Saleem H. Ali

Around the time of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on November 14, I was arriving at the airport in Zagreb, Croatia on a brief visit to observe the impact of the Refugee Crisis on border communities in the Balkans. There was sobering sense of connectivity between the news flashing on my mobile about the Paris attacks and the refugee predicament. Although the refugees were coming from far and wide, the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts had no doubt been the main spur of this epic migration. News that one of the Paris bombers had disguised himself as a Syrian refugee was likely to further complicate then quandary that European countries find themselves in.

Through the Schengen Treaty process, Europeans have slowly begun to dissolve barriers to access along their political borders, as a remarkable testament to peace-building between erstwhile adversaries. Yet with the current crisis, the borders are again rising all across the continent. For the Balkan states that are at the front-lines of transitioning the refugees towards their “promised land” of Germany, the re-emergence of borders had a particular emotional sting. There is a sense of loss for many older citizens of how the former Yugoslavia had fallen apart, and so many of their own citizens had been relegated to being refugees. Borders had arisen then, and after much effort had begun to dissipate as economic expediency triumphed over ethno-religious tribalism.

The gradual accession of some former Yugoslav republics into the EU and the Schengen system had again led to some border restrictions emerging. Slovenia had largely escaped the —> Read More

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