Latviski English По-русски
Friday 22.06.2018 | Name days: Ludmila, Laimdots, Laimiņš

Borders tend to disappear across the world

(No Ratings Yet)

While in Europe, political and economic agreements have brought borders down, elsewhere religious and territorial conflicts are driving walls, barriers and security fences up.

FT Magazine writes that closed borders are by their nature unstable. Too many forces – similarity on both sides of the fence, trade, desire for happiness – gnaw away at them. Already the southeast Asian states united in Asean are pursuing European-style porous borders by 2015. The South American countries in Mercosur have stumbled along a similar path. There’s reason to hope more regions will follow Europe’s example. In most places, history seems to be working against borders.

In the decades before the first world war, you could generally cross a European border without a passport. The movement of people and ideas helped make neighbouring countries more similar. From 1914, European borders began to tighten. The process reached its nadir in 1961, when Berliners woke one summer Sunday morning to find that the East German regime was building a wall through town. With the Berlin Wall, closed borders became the everyday European reality.

After the Wall fell, the former West German chancellor Willy Brandt said, “Now what belongs together is growing together.” He meant Germany, but his words were true of all Europe.

Now Europe is the most open it’s ever been. Even the Polish-German border, once the fearsome Oder-Neisse line, has effectively gone. Poles and Germans have a bloodier past than Israelis and Palestinians, but house prices have proved a stronger force than history: many Poles now live on the German side, where property is cheaper.

Since the signing of the Schengen Agreements in 1985, the borders of most of the European continent have been fading from the landscape and from people’s imaginations. The agreements are a giant leap in the progressive unification of Europe and the emergence of a European consciousness. Today, with 26 countries belonging to the Schengen Area, 16,500km of borders can be freely crossed.

The one town in Europe where you can still see old-fashioned border fences is Belfast. The Catholic Falls and the Protestant Shankill neighbourhoods are separated by a Peace Wall. In the open city centre, Protestants and Catholics work or study together. Belfast isn’t utopia, but it’s much better than Jerusalem.

Europe’s border fences are now on the outside of the bloc: between Spain and Morocco, or Greece and Turkey. But as pictures of Israel, Korea and the Mexico-US frontier show, elsewhere borders still very much exist.

The proposed fence across the Mexico-US border, begun in the years after the 9/11 attacks, ended up covering only about 600 of the 2,000 frontier miles. Then it was quietly abandoned as expensive, ineffective and silly. This is the most-crossed frontier on earth. Mexican-US trade hit $500bn last year, up fivefold since the North American Free Trade Agreement took force in 1994. Still, many poor Mexicans die while secretly crossing the desert at night.

American politics are now tending towards a more open border. Pearce lost office in 2011. The Republican party, chastened by last November’s election, has begun flirting with Latinos. Meanwhile, Barack Obama wants increased cross-border trade. Politicians may still talk macho about the Mexican frontier, but as we saw in Europe, the sturdiest borders can suddenly evaporate.

In addition, FT Magazine says that mutual similarities tend to eat away at the highest border fence. They are most obvious at the Korean-Korean border. The fact that North and South Korean border guards can blare insults at each other, and be understood, is why the border will disappear when the north’s regime does.

Similarities exist even across the Israeli-Palestinian fences. Israel’s wall will only grow. But the temper of our times – the decline in wars for territory, the rise of global trade – means that the future will probably look more like the Polish-German border.


Leave a reply

Latvia’s parliament conceptually supports new sanction regulations

On Thursday, 21 June, Saeima supported in the final reading amendments to the Law on International Sanctions and National Sanctions of the Republic of Latvia that are meant to improve sanction regime regulations to ensure efficient application of national and international sanctions, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Storm in Tallinn floods streets, cuts Croatia-Argentina match short on TV

A rain storm has hit northern Estonia on Thursday, flooding some streets in the capital Tallinn, damaged buildings and badly affected the broadcast of an interesting World Cup game.

American banks tested for financial stress show positive results

The U.S. has performed banking stress tests and found that the 35 largest banks operating in the country have enough funds on hand to sail safely through a severe financial crisis.

Saeima fires judge for coming to work in a drunken state

On Thursday, 21 June, Latvia’s parliament supported the proposal to dismiss Rezekne Court judge Arvis Garais from his post. 71 deputies voted in favour, no one abstained and no one voted against.

UK to have three requirements to EU citizens willing to remain in UK

For citizens of the European Union willing to continue living in the UK after the country leaves the bloc, they will have to submit applications and answer three key questions over the internet, according to the country's interior minister.

Weather in Latvia to be rainy and cool during Ligo; next week’s weather to be dry and hot

Weather at the end of the week in Latvia will be dictated by a cyclone. Because of that, there will be instances of rain on Ligo. Weather is expected to improve next week, however, according to Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuania’s blood plasma corruption scandal extends to Latvia

The former head of Lithuania‘s National Blood Centre, suspected of corruption and involvement in unlicenced activity, received more bad news this week from Latvia, where investigators of the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service had questioned the Latvian Health minister, Anda Čakša.

Administrative burden to be reduced for foreign students and researchers

The administrative burden will be reduced for foreign students and researchers, as well as all education and research institutions hosting them. This is provided by the amendments to the Immigration Law approved by the Saeima in the third reading on Thursday, 21 June.

Latvian Economy Minister endures no-confidence vote

Saeima declined opposition deputies’ request for dismissal of Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Swedbank economist becomes new member of Bank of Latvia Council

On Thursday, 21 June, Latvia’s Saeima approved Mārtiņš Kazāks in his new post as member of Bank of Latvia Council, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Pope Francis’ visit to Latvia will be a national holiday

Latvia’s parliament has approved in the final reading a law that makes 24 September – the day Pope Francis plans to visit Latvia – a national holiday.

ICT specialist numbers in Latvia are below Europe’s average level

In Latvia, information and communication technology specialists form only 2.2% of all employed people in the country, which is considerably below the average level in the European Union – 3.7%. Romania and Greece are the only two EU member states in which the number of ICT specialists is below Latvia’s, according to European Commission’s DESI index.

Hungary adopts prison sentence for helping migrants

Hungarian National Assembly has passed a set of laws criminalising with prison terms some help provided to illegal immigrants by non-governmental organisations.

Harmony plans turning to Constitutional Court to prevent transition to Latvian language in schools

«Why should this reform stay unrealized? It is because schools are not prepared for cardinal changes coming from dozens of other reforms that have already shocked the country’s entire general education system,» says chairman of National Minority School Parents Forum and member of Harmony’s work group in Konstantīns Čekušins.

Deputies detained in KPV LV criminal case not declared suspects yet

Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš and businessman Viesturs Tamužs detained in the criminal process regarding possibly illegal funding of KPV LV party have not yet been declared suspects. Both are currently in police custody. It is likely Kaimiņš will be released later today, 21 June.

Production of mines and grenades planned in Estonia

As the Estonian parliament has adopted new rules on military arms and ammunition production in the country, local defence firm Eesti Arsenal has voiced its plan to build a factory in Estonia to make military explosives.

Total tax debts in Latvia reached EUR 1.224 billion in June

At the beginning of June, total tax debts in Latvia, including topical, halted debts and extended repayment terms were equal to EUR 1.233 billion, which is 0.6% less compared to May, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Switch off internet nationwide during exams – Algerian approach

In an attempt to prevent cheating during secondary school exams, the north African nation Algeria, has turned off internet in its whole territory.

Control Service proposes kicking out shell companies as intensely as offshore companies

Shell companies in Latvia should be combated with the same intensity once shown to offshore companies, says chief of Anti-Money Laundering Service Ilze Znotiņa.

EU imposes tariffs on blue jeans, motorcycles and other U.S. export goods

The European Union will introduce retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports on Friday, EU Trade Commissioner has stated a top official has stated in the bloc's reaction to Washington imposing steep duties on steel and aluminium earlier in June.

Latvia’s Saeima proposes improving job-combining rules for state officials

On Wednesday, 20 June, Latvian parliament’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee decided to submit for review amendments to the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials.

Ukraine's anti-corruption court law insufficient to IMF commitments

The International Monetary Fund has commended the Ukrainian parliament for passing a law to establish an anti-corruption court and pointed to need to amend it to ensure the court can work effectively.

Opinion: they’re trying to shut us up; KPV LV is inconvenient for current government

«We are inconvenient for the current government, the established order, because for the first time a party is prepared to use facts in its rhetoric in the pre-election period. They are trying to shut us up,» said KPV LV prime minister candidate Aldis Gobzems at a press-conference after Artuss Kaimiņš was taken away by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Hydro and wind power plants produced 70.5% more electricity last year

In 2017 gross energy consumption in Latvia comprised 194.9 petajoules, which is 5.5 % more than in 2016. Over the past five years, the gross energy consumption has not changed significantly. However the share of renewable energy has increased by 2.55 percentage points.

Milder penalties for the accused in digital TV case; idea’s authors get no prison sentence

Riga Regional Court has released a shortened ruling in the so-called digital television criminal case. With it, the court acquitted previously convicted former director of Latvia’s National Theatre Ojārs Rubenis. Nevertheless, some of the accused have been sentenced to fines and actual prison time.