Oh little town of Schengen

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Oh little town of Schengen

It’s at this time of year many of us like to cast our minds back to that magical moment all those years ago when a very special little baby was born in a little town in Luxembourg.

The baby in question was actually an agreement, born primarily for the unfortunate residents of Schengen. Until that moment each inhabitant of the little town were required to carry their passports whenever they left home, as being on the immediate border with France and Germany meant that the likelihood they were going to cross a border that day was going to be pretty high, if not unavoidable.

  • CUSTOMS OFFICIAL
    Could you tell me the nature of your visit to Germany today please sir?
  • SCHENGEN RESIDENT
    I’m going to buy some potatoes for supper officer
  • CUSTOMS OFFICIAL
    Are you aware that under Luxembourg law 1706/142 it is illegal to import starch-based foodstuffs from the German Reich?
  • SCHENGEN RESIDENT
    Absolutely which is why I’ll be importing them into France, and then bringing them home across the France-Luxembourg border. Later I’ll have to head out again, because I want to buy some French ham, which I’ll need to import into Germany on my way home.

It was rightly pointed out that this situation was totally ridiculous, and seeing as we were ‘all friends now’ wouldn’t it be a good idea to focus our efforts on keeping things such as illegal potatoes out of the EU, rather than worry about whether the spuds in question had the correct paperwork when they traveled the few hundred yards across an internal border.

So, the Schengen Agreement soon saw the complete removal of border controls across much of Europe, and today has expanded such that it is now possible to travel right across the continent without being stopped by the potato police… with one exception.

The blue bit is what we're talking aboutIt seems the British and Irish Governments either do not believe in the ‘we’re all friends now’ philosophy, are utterly paranoid about the sudden influx of Europeans coming over and taking our jobs and our women, or or …. I can’t think of a third reason.

Which is why many of us Brits abroad, who begrudgingly make the journey over to the UK at Christmas time, pray that one day baby Schengen will be embraced both sides of the channel. You only have to visit the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord in Paris, to realise how ridiculous today’s situation is, where every passenger entering has to have their passport checked – TWICE! Resulting in massive angry queues all the way down the station concourse, and turning what should be a quick effortless journey into a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare. Then, at London St Pancras, the Customs and Excise crew give everyone a good hard stare as they enter the country (something they don’t bother doing at Ebbsfleet incidentally) under the signs that say ‘Welcome to the United Kingdom’.

If worries over immigration are the reason for maintaining this frankly pointless, and no doubt expensive, bit of bureaucracy then perhaps the British Government should consider this: that if you make it easier for people to enter the country, then the easier it will also be for them to leave.

(See – you can travel all around the blue bit without being asked to show your spuds)

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:45+00:00 January 2nd, 2009|Strasbourg|3 Comments

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3 Comments

  1. Sally January 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Nice post.

    About 10 years ago, when I was living in France, I lost my passport and managed to get back into the UK without it once! The French officials at Gare du Nord just waved me onto the train but then I got ‘caught’ by the UK officials on the train. They gave me a bit of a ticking off but by this time the train was already in the UK so they couldn’t really do much about it. I’m sure it would be impossible to get away with that now… šŸ™‚

  2. Frank January 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    hmmm, when I drive to the UK, I cross the, well it isn’t a border is it, by Schengen. At some point, I enter Fortress Britain. The English used to call Germany a police state. But somewhere, something changed. Pity really.

    Frank
    A German, married to an English woman, living in France, 60km north of Strasbourg in Wissembourg. Maybe we should get in touch.

  3. Bart January 14, 2009 at 9:50 am - Reply

    It amazes me how many Brits are blissfully ignorant of the Schengen zone. Of course it’s not just about potatoes and paperwork, it’s about the civil right to freedom of movement without having to show your passport everytime you cross a political boundary.
    However, on reflection, I can see that the British government are trying to join schengen, by launching a national identity card scheme, which predictably is already over budget and caught in a mire of technological cock-ups, delaying it’s launch for a good number of years yet.
    I look forward to the day though when I will be able to breeze over the channel, by whatever means without Big Brother stopping me.

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