Rightwing and populist parties across Europe have seized in Italy to criticise Europe’s open border policy and call for the end of the Schengen system.
The leader of France’s far-right Front National, , sought to make political capital from the fact that Amri, the man suspected of driving a truck into crowds in the German capital, had managed to travel from Germany to Italy, reportedly via France.
Demanding the return of national borders, Le Pen said his journey was .
Shortly afterwards, Nigel Farage, the former leader of the , also sought to align himself with Schengen critics. “If the man shot in Milan is the Berlin killer, then the Schengen area is proven to be a risk to public safety. It must go”, he tweeted.
Beppe Grillo, the head of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said the shooting proved that the migration crisis was out of control and that it was “crazy” that two Italian police officers had had to risk their lives to deal with a “terrorist wanted by half of Europe”.
“Italy has become a pathway for terrorists, who we are not able to recognise thanks to Schengen,” Grillo said, claiming that terrorists could cross Europe’s borders undisturbed and that Schengen needed to be reviewed.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far-right Freedom party, said:
According to reports in the French and German media, Amri had been found carrying rail tickets bought in and had travelled to Italy from Chambéry in the Savoie region via Turin.
In her statement, Le Pen wrote: “Without permanent national borders, France and its neighbours are reduced to learning that an armed and dangerous jihadi was probably wandering on its soil only after the event. I reiterate my commitment to give France full control over its national borders and to put an end to the Schengen agreement. The myth of total free movement in , to which my opponents still cling in this presidential election, must be buried.”
The Schengen agreement, which abolished many internal borders separating EU nations, took effect in 1995 but has come under increasing pressure since the .
There are now 26 Schengen countries, 22 of them EU members – not including Britain. Schengen is seen as one of the pillars of EU policy but faced widespread criticism following the international migration crisis during which more than a million refugees arrived on the continent in 2015 alone. Eurosceptics claim it represents an open door for criminals and terrorists.
France reinstated its internal borders after the November 2015 Paris attacks, as countries are allowed to do under the agreement for “national security reasons”.
Le Pen, who polls predict could make it to the second round runoff in the presidential elections in April and May, has pledged to suspend and renegotiate the Schengen agreement.
In June, she told supporters: “We are best placed to ensure our own security, we have to stop counting on others. For years we have demanded the definitive suspension of Schengen, and I believe that each day that passes shows that we are right.”