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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Why Europe Must Not Be A Fortress

While Western European countries are opening doors to each other, their doors to the rest of the world are being slammed shut. Not only political refugees and economic immigrants, but also non-Europeans hoping to do business in Europe or meet acquaintances are finding that Europe's visa policy now seems to be: When in doubt, say no.


This unfortunate trend toward the creation of a Fortress Europe has been illustrated all too vividly over the last few days.


On Wednesday, after a 12-hour debate, the German parliament adopted new restrictions on the country's asylum laws, which had been the most liberal in Western Europe.


Worried that a large influx of immigrants would weaken the economy and troubled by racist attacks on foreigners, the parliament undercut a constitutional clause that guarantees temporary residence to anyone claiming political persecution.


One of the new restrictions is that immigrants can be turned back if they come into Germany from any third country that has signed the Geneva Convention on Refugees. This includes Eastern European countries that regularly expel foreigners and refuse them proper housing.


France is also adopting new restrictions on immigrants, and European Community ministers are expected to consider monitoring foreigners in EC countries for abuse of visa rights. Even legal immigrants could be expelled for helping foreigners enter illegally, the BBC said Thursday.


A Russian history professor learned of the new trend the hard way this week. He had been invited for a holiday in France and a visit in Britain. But the French Embassy denied his visa application on the grounds that on his flight back from London he would have to change planes in France after the expiration date of the visa.


While restricting freedom of movement may give Europeans the illusion that they live in a Fortress Europe, protected from the economic woes of the rest of the world, the fate of the Berlin Wall has shown that erecting barriers is not an option.


Similarly, recent attempts by the European Community to prevent Eastern European countries from boosting their ailing economies with exports into Western Europe will present an expensive bill later if reforms fail. Russia's trade minister, Sergei Glazyev, recently said that such restrictions were costing Russia more than it could expect to receive in Western aid.


It would be better if Europe dropped its short-sighted approach and faced the fact that the world has changed. Fending off people and goods will not insulate Europe from these changes.