Germany has always had a significant presence in Europe, both geographically and politically. A lot of wars have been fought, blood has been shed and territories have been lost and regained where German rulers have played an active role in deciding the fates. With all the territorial loss and gain, Germany now shapes up as a Western European country with a diverse geographical landscape, that borders eight other European and one non-European country. It has rivers, forests, mountains and a beautiful North Sea beach.
Impact of Schengen Agreement on the Border
The Schengen Agreement is a treaty, signed in 1985, that leads the countries towards abolishing borders. The member countries still do have their borders and territories, but each country lets its border open for other Schengen Area country citizens so that they can travel and return to their home country without any paperwork (VISA, Passport etc.). The member countries who have signed this agreement fall within the Schengen Area. The number of countries that belong to the Schengen Agreement is 26, leaving out only 2 EU member countries- Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Since Germany is a Schengen Area country, the agreement puts a significant impact on its borders. All 9 countries that border Germany are Schengen Area countries. Thus, the citizens from those countries can visit Germany without a visa or any other paperwork and the vehicles that they travel on pass through the border without much checking and so on. This has allowed the German citizens to visit other Schengen Area countries with minimum hassle as well. The idea of creating a single-state-like area has brought more freedom in the lives of German citizens. Following the European migrant crisis, Germany has, like many other countries, introduced border controls with even quite a few Schengen Area countries. Thus, border guards check through each person and vehicle who indent to cross into the German border.
Germany borders Denmark in the north and they both shore the North Sea. The border is 68 kilometers or 42 miles long. Since both the countries fall under the Schengen Agreement, they’ve agreed to keep their border open and remove all sorts of restrictions in 2001. Later, due to the European migrant crisis, the Danish government has decided to put some border controls with Germany. These controls have been introduced in 2016 and are in effect as of today.
The Czech Republic and Poland are the two countries that Germany borders with in its east. Czech Republic-German border stretches for 815 kilometers or 506 miles. Both countries keep their border open for the nationals being members of the Schengen Area. The border has not always been control-free. During 1945-1990, both countries not only kept their border closed, they kept it strictly guarded and heavily fenced.
Poland shares another large border with Germany, stretching for 467 kilometers or 290 miles. There have been disputes regarding this border throughout different phases of history. After World War 2, Germany has lost its territory to Poland which results in disputes. In 1950, East Germany and Poland, two communist countries, both had agreed to the border. West Germany had not acknowledged the border until 1970. Finally, in 1990, reunified Germany and Poland signed the German-Polish Border Treaty and officially marked their territories.
Germany’s lone non-EU neighbour is Switzerland, located in the south. The border between the countries extends to 362 kilometers or 225 miles. German-Switzerland border is a busy one with a lot of traffic traveling both sides of the border. The major reason for this commute is shopping. The railway is a popular means for the commuters as the countries are connected through a good number of railways. Since Germany and Switzerland are Schengen Area countries, they keep their border open for commuters without a passport. They often may have to go through customs checks.
Another south-bordering country of Germany is Austria. Germany shares its longest border of 816 kilometers or 507 miles with Austria. Like the German-Poland border, this particular border has seen quite a few disputes throughout history. Finally, in 1972, the two countries agreed on their territories and signed a treaty finalizing the present border. Both countries being in the Schengen Area, they keep their border open for both country nationals. Following the European Migrant Crisis, like few other borders, Germany has decided in 2015 to keep the border closed or put border controls with Austria. The restrictions are supposed to get lifted in 2020.
Another EU country that is bordering Germany is France. The border stretches across approximately 450 kilometers or 280 miles. The border has its origin in the 17th century. But with several wars between empires, territories and countries over the years, the border has repeatedly been violated and changed. The border was finally re-established after World War 2.
The other three countries that border Germany are Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. All three are EU countries and located in the west of Germany.
The German-Belgium border is 167 kilometers in length. Though a short border, the Germany-Belgium border is significant for both countries since there has been a lot of cross-border cooperation between the countries. This cooperation has been initiated aiming at strengthening the territory economically, culturally and naturally.
Luxembourg is a small country and Germany shares a short border of 138 kilometers with Luxembourg.
The last country on the list is the Netherlands. Germany shares 570 kilometers or 350 miles long border with the Netherlands. There have been a significant number of disputes and negotiations regarding this border throughout history. The border came into existence as it is today in 1963, after World War 2 and a treaty signed between Netherlands and Germany. Since both countries are in the Schengen Area, they keep their border open for the nationals of both countries. Good border crossing infrastructure has been developed on both sides of the border for an easy commute of the nationals.
East and West Germany
While talking about the German border, the topic of post-WWII-split within the country, which has given birth to the Berlin wall, cannot be skipped. After the devastating World War 2, Germans had lost their voice and control over their own territory. The country was divided into four zones and each post-war superpower was controlling each zone. When Germany had lost territory to its neighbouring countries that they occupied throughout the Nazi government period, the country had seen the Cold War that had led the Western Allies and the Soviets to mark their territories to split the country into two. This gave birth to two independent countries – East and West Germany- West Germany being a republic with a capitalist economic system where East Germany being a Marxist-Leninist socialist republic.
The Federal Republic of Germany, popularly known as West Germany, was more liberal of the two blocks. The citizens used to enjoy more freedom, better opportunities, better living conditions, jobs and economic assurance than the eastern counterpart. A good number of East Germany citizens had successfully or unsuccessfully attempted to escape to West Germany in search of a better life. To prevent the escape, East Germany had decided to build a wall, known as the Berlin wall, which was later broken down when two countries reunited in 1990. Along with the construction of the Berlin wall, East Germany had fortified the internal border between East and West Germany to restrict passage for its citizens to the West.
The reunification of two German parts did not happen overnight. East Germany citizens had always been in discontent about the existing government in the country. Over the years, several hundred thousand East Germans managed to flee to West Germany, making the discontentment more visible. East Germany had attempted several steps but failed to contain the citizens from fleeing. The situation got worse when in 1989 Hungary had let its border open by removing the fence and Austria had put a hole in the curtain. The East Germans were now able to travel to West Germany and Austria through Hungary. Simultaneously, East Germans staged several protests, pushing the government to sit and negotiate with their West German counterparts. All of these had contributed to the reunification of two German blocks and Berlin. Berlin found its former glory back and was being declared the capital of Germany again. The longstanding internal border was abolished in 1990.
The reunification of Germany is a significant incident not only to Germans and Europeans but to the whole world. Abolishing the Berlin Wall, the Germans have opted for better lives for all their fellow nationals. United Germany has a stronger voice in the world community now. More importantly, the reunification has ended the several decade long hostilities between two blocks.
Temporary Border Control Due to COVID 19
Following the outbreak of Coronavirus, like all the countries in the world, Germany has decided to keep its border closed for many countries, including the neighbouring countries. It has decided to impose land and air border control with Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Spain and the sea border with Denmark. This temporary restriction should remain in effect from 16 May to 15 June 2020.
There have been a few positive developments too as Germany, Switzerland and Austria have decided to let their border open for the nationals of these three countries. The decision has been taken since the overall coronavirus condition has improved in the area. The citizens of these countries are now able to meet their relatives, partners or take part in family events on the other side of the border.
Germany has let its border open with Luxembourg as well following the decline in the number of deaths due to coronavirus. Other bordering countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, and Denmark are going to receive the same treatment over the coming days. German authorities have also announced that the EU nationals need not to remain in quarantine for 14 days after crossing the border.
Though Germany is lifting the restrictions for the bordering countries slowly, it doesn’t plan to do the same for the other countries, especially the non-EU and non-Schengen Area countries. According to different hints from German officials, it is going to keep the border closed for non-bordering countries until at least 15 June 2020.
If travel into Germany is not restricted, there are still quite a few health advisories that a traveler has to follow during the stay. Since most of the non-essential and entertainment facilities like clubs, bars, restaurants and theatres are remaining closed, the visitor can go out only if they are in need to shop daily necessary items. During these visits to grocery shops, it is mandatory to keep the customers’ mouth and nose covered using a mask. If the visitors require to board public transport, they still have to keep the mask on.
In any case, if the visitor develops symptoms like coughing, sore throat, a runny nose or fever- symptoms that are associated with Coronavirus, they should immediately get in touch with a doctor over the phone and seek advice. They have to lock themselves completely inside the room they are staying at until their COVID19 tests come negative.
Germany has warned its residents regarding outbound travels as well. Since many other countries have imposed restrictions on their borders, German residents are advised not to travel to other countries if not extremely necessary. Travel to other countries, even if extremely necessary, may result in entry-ban or, in best case scenario, 14 days quarantine. Travellers are, thus, advised to keep close contact with the embassies or consulates of the countries they intend to visit to learn about the possible restrictions beforehand.
The modern German border has changed several times throughout history. During the two World Wars, Germany had attempted in expanding its territory but ended up losing a portion of its own land. The situation becomes worse for the Germans when the country splits into two and the historical Berlin wall is built. The reunification is certainly a great positive turn for the country and its citizens. United Germany, being a Schengen Area and EU country, is maintaining positive border policies with the countries across the world which should lead them to more economic, social and cultural prosperity in the coming days.