The return of borders to Europe, by Teresa Cierco & Jorge Tavares Silva

From the beginning the founders of the integration process in Europe realised that there is a very important and strong link between integration and borders. This means that if we want to achieve an “ever close union”, this would require a change regarding the territory of each state, especially in the perception of borders and its functions. The existing divides between the member states have to be replaced with the emergence of a common area, promoting the opening-up of borders inside the EU, and helping to achieve the goals of European integration.

Within the theories of integration, we have, on one side, the neo-functionalism that sees the integration process as transcending political, social or economic borders, decreasing the significance of internal Union borders. Within the ideal of Europe without frontiers, the free of movement is an essential feature of the integration process, promoting a sense of community and an European identity. On the other side, we have the intergovernmental perspective, where the notion of security was placed over the liberty of movement. Accordingly to it, states have the right to control their borders and the movement of foreigners in-between them is an essential expression of national sovereignty.

The perception of how to enable or to prevent migration differs among the EU member’s states due to varying political cultures and migration traditions, leading in some cases, to the construction of walls between them. These walls reflect the re-birth of a realistic perception of the border and this is one more challenge to Europe regarding its unity and solidarity. The EU’s collective reaction to the unprecedented scale of migrants flowing to Europe has been considered ad hoc and more focused on securing the bloc’s borders than on protecting the rights of migrants and refugees. The way the EU member states has been reacting, put in danger the values that the EU promotes, especially at the human rights level. We must not forget that the EU is a reference to other countries and it influences in a positive or in a negative way the manner they behave in similar situations. So, the EU has responsibilities. It must be capable to find a collective answer to the problem of illegal immigration that it is currently facing.

This is the discussion presented in the article The European Union and the Member States: two different perceptions of border, published in the issue 1/2016 (Volume 59, N. 1) of the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional.

Read the article:

CIERCO, Teresa  and  SILVA, Jorge Tavares da. The European Union and the Member States: two different perceptions of border. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2016, vol.59, n.1, e003.


Teresa Cierco – Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Artes e Humanidades, Porto, Portugal. (;

Jorge Tavares da Silva –  Universidade do Minho, Escola de Economia e Gestão, Braga, Portugal. (

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