Do borders inevitably have to be protectionist?

27/10/16

Headline news 

In these times of crises - migratory, economic and security ones - borders are more than ever talked about. A lot of populist drifts praise their restitution as solution to all bad that afflict our society. Due to a hermetic border, it would be possible to prepare oneself for terrorism, to bar the way to migrants or even to avoid having to eat chlorinated chicken… But is this credible?

“There have never been built more walls, particularly in Europe”, claims Frédérique Berrod, associate professor in public right at the Institut d’études politiques de Strasbourg, “the discourse about the border is coming back, stronger than ever.” In the face of a European Union that is barely unable to manage the crisis, the restitution of borders seems, according to a national or even nationalist logic, as a way to restore a sovereignty to guarantee the security of the population.

But for Frédérique Berrod, this defensive and protectionist vision of the border is worn out. She explains: “The borders still have a meaning but their function hast changed since the World War II. Just as the old bridge in Kehl, the border embodied, back then, a zone of cutting the national sovereignty. Nowadays, it represents a zone of free circulation as symbolised by the passerelle des Deux Rives that crosses the Rhine.” If it is not about denying the geography of states, this evolution of borders goes into the direction of the European project: These days, they rather connect than separate.

Solitary state, vulnerable state?

The researcher in law studies the effects of free circulation on interior market and reassures that the intensification of commercial and migratory flux is “irreversible”. Globalisation includes globalisation of risks and therefore, the effort of secluding oneself does not engage security. “Many terrorists are even legally on our territory”, emphasises Frédérique Berrod. “To close the borders in order to reinforce security is consequently not a valuable strategy any more. On the contrary, it is even more reasonable to open the borders for information.”

In the same way, “thinking about energy security on a single-state level is an illusion,” the researcher goes on with another example. “If we close the nuclear power plant Fessenheim, we will need to import electricity from Germany.”

Given this statement, the director of the Fédération de recherche L’Europe en mutation sees the interdisciplinary colloquium Les fronitères as an occasion to question a paradigm – the paradigm of closed borders and more security. And to question oneself: “Can a border be open to guarantee a space of security as well as of freedom?”

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