The Surprisingly Slight Benefit of Schengen

New figures suggest the borderless Schengen Zone isn’t as central to the European economy as sometimes supposed – plus a round up of recent border delays.

Also, a very lucky escape for two drivers in the French Alps. New 20mph zones for Northern Ireland, and lower blood alcohol limits for professional drivers. Some fresh road building for France. More consistent speed limits on Dutch motorways.



Underwhelming figures on cross-border trade from France and Germany.

The Slavonice-Fratres border crossing from 'After Schengen' by Ignacio Evangelista.

The Slavonice-Fratres border crossing from ‘After Schengen’ by Ignacio Evangelista.

Considering it is the headline achievement of the EU, the borderless Schengen Zone seems to deliver remarkably little.

Estimated losses thanks to border controls might make big numbers, but as a percentage of GDP Gross Domestic Product they are actually tiny.

A study published yesterday by the France Strategie government think tank said reinstating borders would cost the 26 Schengen countries €110 billion over the next decade said Reuters.

The cost to France would be up to €2 billion in the short term and €10 billion over ten years, or 0.5 percent of GDP.

(However, that would also be equivalent to a 3 percent tax on trade and lead to a ‘structural decline’ in trade of up to 20 percent it said.)

Similar figures emerged from Germany at the end of January.

According to Handelsblatt, if each of the 57 million transnational freight trips in the EU each year was held up for an extra hour it would cost €55-60 per truck to total between €3-3.5 billion.

Meanwhile, despite border controls around France still officially being in place, queues recently have calmed considerably.

Drivers heading into Lille on the A14/A22 across the Belgian border face a regular 20 minute delay.

Traffic on the northbound A31 into Luxembourg from Metz/Thionville has been noticeably slow each morning for the past week.

There are also random, short delays crossing from Spain on the AP-7/A9 towards Perpignan.

Between Austria and Germany, the only significant queues – of around one hour – have been at weekends.

As with the four hour queues on the first return day in January, it seems to be tourists bearing the brunt of border queues so far rather than trade.



Two people survived a 80m plunge into Lac du Chevril in the French Alps yesterday afternoon. Their car came off the D902 between Val d’Isere and Bourg Saint Maurice after heavy snow and rolled down the embankment into the lake (see tracks above). Luckily, the ski patrol were already on the scene and helped the pair – described as a Danish man and woman aged 25 and 19 respectively – to the bank. They were said to be suffering from hypothermia plus other minor injuries and were taken to a local hospital reports @RadioValdIsere. The car meanwhile is still submerged.


roundup: NORTHERN IRELAND. A new 20mph zone has been rolled out in Belfast city centre, part of an experiment to cut down collisions says the BBC. The zone covers the main pedestrian area, plus front and back of the city hall. Meanwhile, the drink driver limit for professional drivers will be lowered to 20mg per 100ml of blood in 2018, down from 80mg now reports Commercial Motor. The change will bring the country into line with Scotland which has had a similar limit since December 2014. FRANCE. Strasbourg has inked a deal on a new bypass to relieve the existing A4-A35 which runs just west of the city centre. The four-lane 24km road will stretch from the A4-A35 junction in the north to the A352-A35 junction in the south and will be built by Vinci reports Construction Index. The work will take 56 months and is entirely self-financed. Vinci Autoroutes will operate the concession for 54 years. Meanwhile, SANEF will widen the north east A4 Metz bypass, between the A31 and A4/A315, and the A29 between the A26 (Saint Quentin) and A1, investing a total of around €100m. Both projects are part of the recently announced Highway Stimulus Plan and should be complete within five years. NETHERLANDS. From Friday (5 February) more sections of motorway will have the speed limit raised to 130kmh, taking the total to 61 percent of the network says a statement from roads manager Rijkswaterstaat. The eventual target is 77 percent. Since the upper limit started to be raised to 130kmh in March 2011 there has been controversy over inconsistent ratings on roads, especially from drivers caught speeding. The Netherlands also has sections of rods with different day time and overnight limits, marked by signs. The new permanent 130kmh stretches include the A1, A27, A2 and A58 – see map – with the A2 near Amsterdam and A12 past Arnhem to the German border to be added in May.


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