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New Year, New Walls

January 11, 2011

A few years ago the European Union was celebrating the demise of national borders. At the same time, critics were warning that the Schengen Agreement foretold a ‘Fortress Europe’. Up until recently, that fortress was largely composed of information systems and conventional border controls, but now Greece is making it very physical with a new ‘border wall’ with its old enemy, Turkey. Admittedly this wall is not on the same scale as those erected by Israel (in unilaterally establishing a border with Palestine) or the USA (along the border with Mexico), and will be placed at a site near the river Evros in Thrace, described as ‘highly permeable’ to illegal immigration which tends to funnel through Turkey into the EU via Greece.

The EU is making vaguely protesting noises, which are likely almost entirely insincere and will in any case be ineffective (see the similar quickly withdrawn complaints over France’s disgraceful expulsions of Roma and Sinti people last year). The real reasons for the new barrier may be rather more opportunist and cynical in any case: in a time of financial crisis in Greece with the government reeling from popular protest, turning on the ‘Other’, and being seen to be tough in immigration, is a classic populist strategy of diversion.

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