2016 will not be an easy year for the European Union. Today, Denmark has announced new controls along its southern border with Germany, just hours after Sweden's decision to step up its own border controls came into effect. Countries start border checks as they struggle to control the flood of asylum seekers heading north. Germany has said the move is a threat to Europe's open borders.
“If the European Union can’t protect the external borders, you will see more and more countries which will be forced into introducing temporary internal border control. This is something we need to take very seriously, because it will have a negative impact on prosperity. I’m a true believer of the freedom of movement. This is not a happy moment at all,” said Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen.
Sweden started implementing a new system of ID checks for train passengers crossing into Sweden from Denmark. Travelers will be required to show identification as they pass across a bridge-and-tunnel transit area linking Copenhagen Airport to Sweden.
German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Martin Schaefer said to AFP that the Schengen zone was "in danger". "Freedom of movement is an important principle - one of the biggest achievements in recent years," Schaefer told.
The move has also drawn backlash from ordinary citizens in both countries, with the head of the Commuters Association, the organization that represents those who make the daily commute across the border, telling that some are even referring to the border as "the new Iron Curtain."
Sweden has the highest number of asylum seekers in Europe after Germany. Some 160,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden last year, most of them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.