Quantum Pranx


Is the heart of Europe – its Customs Union – about to flatline?

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Original title: As Denmark reintroduces border controls, is the heart of Europe – its Customs Union – about to flatline?

by Tyler Durden
Posted originally May 11, 2011

WHILE EUROPE MAY HAVE SOLD ITS SOUL TO THE DEVIL over the past decade, after it was “forced” to engage in diabolical currency swap deal with the “godly” likes of Goldman Sachs simply to mask that Europe’s monetary union is nothing but a debtor’s prison to the weaker peripheral countries at the expense of the stronger ones (or one: Germany), it still retained its beating heart – the concept that served at the core of the European Union: the so-called customs union, or a mobile, borderless workforce. Alas, the heart has just entered ventricular fibrillation, as for the first time, a country, Denmark, has taken what appears to be the first step toward defecting from Europe’s 60 year old experiment of intimate, and sometimes, forceful unification.

As EUBusiness reports: “Denmark will reintroduce controls at its intra-EU borders with Germany and Sweden, Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said Wednesday following an agreement between the government and the far-right.

“We have reached agreement on reintroducing customs inspections at Denmark’s borders as soon as possible,” Hjort Frederiksen told reporters.” The official reason: “controls would counter illegal immigration and organised crime.” The unofficial reason: the great, and failed, experiment at unity may be ending. And while Denmark is the first to officially defect, even under a palatable explanation, it surely won’t be the last:

“The idea of controls at borders within the EU, also defended by Italy and France, was pressed by the far-right Danish People’s Party and its head Pia Kjaersgaard, who argued controls would counter illegal immigration and organised crime.” One thing we have seen in Europe is that courtesy of the relentless ebb of austerity, the far-right is progressively gaining a foothold in every country. And one can be certain that the populist whiplash against all things European, will not be contained to merely the monetary arena, but will rapidly devolve to restoring borders, following which the EU will exist only in history books.

More from EUBusiness:

Because Denmark is a member of Europe’s visa-free Schengen area, it cannot reinstate full frontier controls, and will still follow European Union rules with its current plan to station customs officers permanently at borders to conduct random checks on vehicles.

“Everything will take place within the limits of Schengen,” the minister said. “Over the past few years we have seen an increase in trans-border crime, and this is designed to curb the problem. We will be building new facilities at the Danish-German border, with new electronic equipment and number-plate identifiers,” he told a news conference.

The minister added that Denmark wanted Danish customs officers to be permanently present at the Oeresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden. Denmark’s decision comes a day ahead of a key meeting in Brussels on Thursday at which EU interior ministers are to debate proposals for restoring temporary border controls within the visa-free zone.

Naturally, the European Commission had anticipated this possibility: The European Commission proposed last week to introduce a mechanism that would allow states to temporarily reinstate checkpoints during sudden surges in migration or if an EU country fails to control its frontier with non-EU nations. However, it did not act fast enough: “Denmark thus went ahead with tighter border controls before a possible EU decision on the matter.” As such, Europe’s tardiness will serve as a slap in the face of its own bloated bureaucratic regimes.

Lastly, it appears the Danes have no intention of wasting any time: The new controls will enter into force within two to three weeks, he saidYesterday Greek riots, today border checkpoints, tomorrow: the end of a failed new world order dream?

And a spirited response from Gemma Laming, a regular Quantum Pranx reader:

Well, this is certainly written by someone who does not know Europe!  Did you ever travel in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s?  Did you go through the Iron Curtain to West Berlin? East Berlin? Poland?  Russia?

I remember when we went through the Netherlands–Germany frontier, we just drove through to the kiosk and flashed our passports. I remember seeing a Dutch frontier guard on the Netherlands-Belgium frontier near Baarle-Nassau, but he was asleep.

And since then traffic has doubled at the very least. Anything that interrupts motorway traffic would instantly lead to enormous holdups – just look at the summer vacations in Germany!  Everyone went to Croatia – I mean everyone. Border controls at Salzburg on the A8 meant a holdup. Fine. Insert a 200km traffic jam and it would take you three to five days to get through, but being Germans it became a party, the farmers put out barbecues, volleyball fields, camping strips and it rapidly became part of the holiday!

Skip forward to 1995, the last time I visited Poland – three hours for a car and 24 for a lorry. And look at the modest traffic – and it is modest by European standards – to Britain!  The traffic between the UK and EU is around the same as between the Netherlands and Germany alone, let alone any of her other neighbours. Okay, getting to the UK has always been difficult, and in European terms, very expensive (ferries three times the cost of Danish or Norwegian ones with way fewer amenities and coffee better classified as industrial waste). And when you get there you have to battle with Britain’s poor infrastructure – just look at the state of the trains, and the expense! I could go on.

Read very carefully: Denmark will not break Schengen. Denmark will put up surveillance – but not controls. Controls will mean damaging the economy, which would not be sensible at this time. If it took three hours to get a lorry through before, how long now?!  It simply can’t be done. As to the EU breaking up?  It has worked in America for a hundred years, Europe will have teething troubles, but with the exception of the PIIGS defaulting (which they should have done immediately – just as Britain should have) the necessary level of trade in the EU will continue to develop. There, a train to Frankfurt just popped by.

Just to give you an idea of the traffic on the railway, in each direction: four express trains, two local passenger trains, one coal train one container train, sometimes two.  EVERY HOUR until midnight.  The container trains in are now full, going out three quarters, double the traffic from a year ago. And for freight, this is the relief line to Rotterdam!

Tyler has over-egged his analysis, and from the looks of it, with no experience of the facts on the ground. As far as I am concerned, Elites or no Elites, the EU is here to stay. Britain can leave, fine, but her export trade will be gladly lapped up by the opposition here, and what would that do for Britain’s already flimsy export drive? It is time for Britain, and the British to wake up to the modern world, this kind of thinking is what is keeping her exports down. Tyler, your knowledge of Europe is paltry at best, dire at worst. And as a quickie: how many European languages do you speak fluently?

Editors note: My humble apologies to Ms Laming: I incorrectly substituted Denmark for Germany twice in this piece. But now corrected! I’ve thrown out my old 18th century atlas, got another, more accurate one. Sorry again.


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