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Schengen’s Open Borders Remain Popular in Frankfurt

Ulrich Mueller, left, believes Schengen should continue, but controls on the EU border should be increased. (A. Tanzeem/VOA)

Many Germans enjoying the weekend open-air market in Frankfurt city center Saturday expressed support for their government’s policy of trying to keep borders open inside the Schengen zone despite security threats. Most, however, stated the need to strengthen controls on the outer borders for those entering the zone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her policy in a speech to Germany's lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, earlier in the week.

The open-air market in Frankfurt city center is seen in this Nov. 28, 2015 photo (A. Tanzeem/VOA)
The open-air market in Frankfurt city center is seen in this Nov. 28, 2015 photo (A. Tanzeem/VOA)

"The strongest response to terrorists is to carry on living our lives and our values as we have until now — self-confident and free, considerate and engaged," she said.

"We want to keep Schengen in its current form," another senior German official said Friday, according to Reuters.

Germany is facing pressure from other EU states, especially France after the attacks in Paris, over its assertion that Germany can handle up to 1 million refugees this year alone.

Politically, Merkel’s coalition government is facing a rift over the issue.

The people of Frankfurt, however, seemed to mostly support Merkel’s policies, with a few caveats.

“I think it [Schengen’s free travel] should continue, most definitely. We’ve made great progress over the last couple of years, so why should we change it?” a man who gave only his first name as Ralph said.

He said he thought that terrorism could happen anywhere, and that people should have some trust in their government to be able to handle it.

“It should continue, but we still have to raise the controls on European outside borders,” said another man, Ulrich Mueller. “According to the law, everybody has to be checked when they enter Europe.”

Control on the outer borders of the Schengen zone has been a controversial issue since the mass migration to Europe of people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere started.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been able to enter the Schengen zone, mostly from Greece, and reach Western European states without having to register anywhere along the way.

Fence, closures

Earlier this year, Hungary erected a fence to defend its borders. Several Schengen countries have been sporadically opening and closing their borders to migrants trying to get to Western Europe, particularly Germany.

Some of the other countries have blamed Germany for sounding a welcome call to migrants that has led to one of the biggest crises in Europe since World War II.

"It was not France that said, 'Come!' " French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently said.

“But still, as long as real refugees are coming, we have to take them — but real refugees, not economic refugees,” Mueller said of the German government’s policy.

He also said he thought Germany should support Italy and Greece “with personnel and with money” to be able to register the refugees as they enter Europe.

Julia Kilza, left, said Germany must preserve freedom, even for those not born in Germany (A. Tanzeem/VOA)
Julia Kilza, left, said Germany must preserve freedom, even for those not born in Germany (A. Tanzeem/VOA)

Julia Kilza, a female student out with her friends, said she thought Germany should not compromise on its values despite the security threat.

“Germany is a free country and we all should live free, never mind if we are Germans or foreign, whatever country,” she said.

Johannes, who did not give her last name but said that most of the people she knew agreed with her, said she would like to see more border controls. However, she also said she didn't think the free travel zone should be restricted. Instead, she thought Germany should help the Schengen border countries with dealing with the influx of migrants.

“It’s too much for Greece. We have to help them,” she said.

Juergen, who also gave only his first name, goes once a week to a refugee camp to help but to also “understand the situation.”

He thought the influx of migrants was a challenge but also an opportunity for Germany to emerge as a stronger country.

“You can only solve it with an open mind and with an attitude that you want to solve it,” he said.