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Long live Schengen!

European integration continues to be a focus in the French presidential campaign in which, as too often is the case, it is playing the role of the scapegoat. This is notably the case with the immigration policy.

Europe's population is declining and its demographic situation is catastrophic. It has also become the leading continent as far asylum and immigration are concerned. Because of this Europe's population is growing by some 8 million people per year and amongst the 502 million Europeans, there are 45 million foreigners who we struggle to integrate. The crisis is increasing concern, that is made worse by populism and some would like to bring the European agreements of free movement into question.

However in order to rise to these challenges nothing would be worse than renationalising the immigration policy. Believing that Member States would be most apt at managing the Union's external borders alone is an illusion demonstrated by reality. Allowing us to believe that inter-state management of immigration might best solve internal migratory issues is a serious error that bears with it the seeds of serious division between peoples. Schuman's Europe, and also that of General de Gaulle and of all his successors, would probably not withstand this, washed away by the temptation of national withdrawal that comes from nationalism.

Those who thought of Schengen (1985: Germany, Benelux and France) who now total 26 quite rightly decided to hand over its management in 1995 to the European Commission, a supranational body. Since then they have tried to harmonise asylum rights, the refugee status and to set out a European Pact for immigration. Improvements are still necessary and reform is also ongoing. External border control must one day be given to a real European border corps, States must no longer be able to decide alone on measures that affect their partners, real solidarity with those who face pressure from third countries must be better organised, workers' mobility within the Union could be better regulated, our security in the face of new threats must be increased. We can only achieve this together, since it is so clear that solutions will only be found in terms of the continent. Responding to concern, regarding immigration means playing the game of a more integrated, more effective Europe to the full and not giving in to extremists. This is the real way to protect the right we have achieved to move freely from the North Pole to the Canary Islands and also to master migratory flows in the respect of our fundamental rights. Any reduction in this freedom would mean the terrible failure of European spirit. Long live the Schengen agreements!

The editorial has also been published on the Bulgarian daily "Siega" (in Cyrillic),click here