Dear Schengen agreement, when I read that soon you might be gone – they are slowly trying to tear you apart, aren’t they? – I had to write you a letter. I don’t care if you think that’s cheesy – isn’t it time to embrace the cliché?

Dear Schengen agreement,

When I read that soon you might be gone – they are slowly trying to tear you apart, aren’t they? – I had to write you a letter. Yes, I know that this is too easy, too cheesy: “I only noticed my feeling, when I realised that you might be leaving” – as if I was living in one of these cinematic “works of art” which end on a picture showing a family playing beachball in front of the sun setting over the sea. You can laugh at me all you want when you read this. I am not trying to evade cheesiness anymore! I am embracing the cliché! I need to make a point. And I will use exclamation marks. I am starting right here and now: for me you are a TOP European!

Illustration: Laura Hempel

Some time ago I felt passionate about the “European idea” – unity in diversity, open borders, freedom of movement, creativity through exchange, dialogue. And you were one of the driving forces, you made me feel like this idea was more than letters on papers I had never seen. I remember crossing the “Passerelle des deux Rives” by bike, thinking about you. I felt like we were part of something historic in that moment, my bike and I – and you were part of the reason. I remember that I felt excited about what was to come. I know what you’re going to tell me: the time of big narratives is over, things are complex, good and bad – what does it even mean to be “part of something historic”? Yes, I am aware that your name has been used to justify enhanced border control, immigration laws and suffering that make me ache – does that have to do with your marrying this Acquis? That’s why you changed your name, right?

Still, I am tired of other people invoking their fragile finger nails, drug trafficking, social security, pension funds, system relevant banks, pressures of a globalised world, complexity, postmodernism or relativism – how are people ever going to stand up for their convictions if any argument can be tamed that way? I don’t mean violently broken, just silently tamed over time. No, I feel like if I lose you, I really don’t believe in this “European idea” anymore. Everyone is calling for more Europe – at the same time, they want to break with you. I don’t understand – is this not the most obvious display of hypocrisy?

The Schengen agreement
  • The Schengen Agreement is a treaty signed in 1985 by five of the ten member states of the European Economic Community. Five years later, the Agreement was supplemented by a convention: Europe’s borderless Schengen Area was created. The Schengen area functions more or less like one state with external border controls for people entering or leaving the area, but no internal border controls.
  • In 1997 the Amsterdam Treaty incorporated the rules agreed on in the Schengen Agreement/Convention into European Union law – this is often called the Schengen Acquis.
  • The Schengen Area today consists of 26 European countries covering over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres.

Doesn’t the whole idea become shallow at some point? Are we not getting close to the stage where Europe becomes like the Gulf War – as Jean Baudrillard said, it never took place. Somehow, I am thinking about T.S. Eliot: this is the way Europe ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. Slowly they are taking you apart. Yes, finally I am again thinking about something that I feel passionate about – you.

Clichés, nothing but clichés – and still. How can they try to get rid of you, when really it was because of you that I saw so many different things – from the northern lights to the corals of the Mediterranean -, tasted different meals, smelled different smells – a midsummer fire about to burn down and the smoke of sardines on a grill by the port; but what is worse: how can they get rid of you when you gave me the chance to meet others, talk, drink, laugh and see how they live. Who is to decide whether people should be able to do that, national governments? Why would we want national governments to decide how important national borders are? Is this not like asking the fox whether the chicken should sleep inside or outside the coop? I am not talking about interests and conspiracy – I am talking about perspectives and points of view. You are probably reading this, rolling your eyes over my naiveté, shaking your head while secretly praising the idealism – grow up, you’re thinking. And you are absolutely right if you point out that part of my outrage is hypocritical as well – and that it is exaggerated, that it is a way for me to feel that I am doing something.

See! All I do is ramble, sometimes heartfelt but always ridiculous, not even moving, staying in my comfortable and cosy common-place. Should we ask the chickens whether they want to sleep outside under the stars, when that also means risking being visited by foxes? I have no answers, I need to talk about this – to others, even if they happen to be in a different country. And it is precisely for this reason, my dear, that I need you.



Cover illustration: Laura Hempel

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