Open borders at risk of closure

  • 2011-05-11
  • Staff and wire reports

RIGA - Latvia must heed Nordic countries’ warnings that the Schengen Agreement could be reviewed and altered due to an influx of criminals from the Baltic States. “We are ill-mannered, violent and a poor society,” said Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Unity) in an interview on Latvian State Radio on May 3, reports news agency LETA. The defense minister pointed out that two new prisons have been built in Estonia over the recent years. “You know very well what is happening with prisons in Latvia,” he hinted, alluding to very little that is being done. “What happens to the Latvian prisons, you will well know,” he said.

Pabriks emphasized that Latvia must heed the warning; however, it is unlikely that the Nordic countries will close their borders, he believes. The minister says that due to the recent developments in Arab countries and an influx of immigrants into Europe, there is too much talk about the possibility that the Schengen Agreement could be revised. He will invite the Saeima to stick “to the solidarity clause and not to revise the Schengen Agreement.”

He also believes that it is possible to back away from the agreement, but Latvia must remember that it is an EU border state and may face a potential inflow of immigrants from its neighbor states.
Nordic country police have recently called for restoration of border controls due to an influx of criminals from the Baltic countries, writes Swedish daily Aftenposten. According to Nordic police, Baltic residents account for 80 percent of organized crime in Nordic countries currently.

“Open borders are a major problem in the Nordic countries,” declared the Nordic Police Association Deputy Chairman Arne Juhannesens. Recently, he sent a letter to all the Nordic Ministers of Justice, asking to reinstate border checks.
Tighter border controls into Europe are also necessary due to the massive inflow of illegal immigrants now flooding into Europe’s Mediterranean countries from northern Africa due to political instability and revolution there.

Norway for one is not planning exceptions to the Schengen Agreement, or in ordering a reintroduction of border controls for travelers from the Baltic countries, said Norwegian Ambassador to Estonia Lise Kleven Grevstad, reports Grevstad emphasized that there was no such issue in the relations between Norway and Estonia, adding that the opinion of the police organization Politiets Fellesforbund, which accused Baltic residents of a large part of crimes committed in the Nordic countries, was not the opinion of the Norwegian government.

There are 1,200 foreign nationals in Norway’s prisons at the moment, of which just five are from Estonia, said Grevstad. Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget has also clearly said that Norway was not planning altering the Schengen agreement, added Grevstad.

Two weeks ago, the Norwegian publication VG reported that Politiets Fellesforbund had sent a letter to Storberget, complaining that a large part of crimes committed in Norway were by residents from the Baltic countries, and that border controls should be reintroduced for Baltic residents.