Jihadist terror attacks are threatening fragmentation of the European Union because the Europeans have underinvested in their own security. Many feel the need to re-introduce controls at the border to bolster personal security.
But backtracking on Schengen, the passport free zone in Europe would deal a serious blow to European integration. That would be a big setback for German policy. It should not be allowed to happen.
I gather from discussions with informed European friends, many of them Belgians, that even now national governments are reluctant to increase their spending on police, military and intelligence because they don’t want to bestow free benefits on their E.U. neighbors.
That’s crazy. Not only does the short sighted fear of free riding by your neighbors increase the probability of future attacks and E.U. fragmentation–it makes the migrant crisis much more difficult to solve.
Security is the key. Europeans would feel much more comfortable with and accepting of the migrants if there was an upgraded security apparatus to make them feel safer. Cologne would not have happened had there been sufficient security outside the city’s central railway station last New Year’s Eve.
NATO was deemed in the U.S. interest and if the Europeans got some free stuff out of it, good for them.
Europe wouldn’t be in this jam if it had followed the example of the United States in its treatment of Europe after Word War II.
The United States knew Europe would be getting substantial free or cheap benefits from NATO — but did it anyway. Washington really didn’t care that the Europeans would be building up their welfare states with the defense money NATO saved them. NATO was deemed in the U.S. interest and if the Europeans got some free stuff out of it, good for them.
Those days are long gone to be sure. Today Donald Trump wants to charge Europe for the free or cheap defense benefits they get from NATO — and that argument is one reason he is the darling of American populists in the race to the White House.
But Mr. Trump doesn’t appear to realize that Europe might decide not to pay for the protection of the American nuclear umbrella and instead opt to build nuclear weapons of its own– something the U.S. has tried to avoid for decades.
From the U.S. point of view, NATO’s free or cheap defense benefits for Europe reflect enlightened self interest, not global altruism. It also would be enlightened self interest for the E.U. partners to spend more to upgrade their security apparatus even if their partners did receive a free benefit.
Europeans may despise and fear Mr. Trump — and with good reason — but they act a lot like the American populist when it comes to free riding and their own national security policies.
Absent a return of enlightened national self interest, the only real option for Europeans to boost security and keep the borders open is to move the security function from the national level to the European level.
That should end European underinvestment in internal security by taking away the critical security spending decisions from short-sighted national politicians who appear more frightened by a populist backlash in the next election than E.U. fragmentation by border controls.
Unless Europe can show the political will for real integration and real defense spending the prognosis for E.U. open borders is not good.
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