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Border controls are back in Europe

Lake Lugano

July 6, 2012
Lake Lugano, Switzerland

Somewhere in America, Barbara Boxer is weeping.

The California senator’s version of the Highway Bill (S.1813, also known as MAP-21) which passed the senate and seemed destined to become law, has been dropped in favor of a rival bill that President Obama will sign into law today.

If you recall, Boxer’s highway bill contained provisions authorizing the government to deny US citizens a passport in the event of unpaid taxes.

These provisions have been removed from the new version of the law; so the US governments efforts to restrict Americans’ travel have been dropped. For now.

Don’t worry, though there are still plenty of bonehead line items in the law, like authorizing public service campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of ‘leaving a child or unattended passenger in a vehicle after the vehicle motor is disengaged.’

Your tax dollars at work.

Speaking of travel restrictions and border controls, though, European authorities seem to have no qualms about implementing them.

For the last several days, I’ve been weaving between northern Italy and Switzerland checking out great places to bank, new places to store gold, and taking in these gorgeous lake views.

Every single time I’ve crossed the border, I’ve been met by rather snarly police on both sides; they’re stopping cars, turning people’s trunks inside out, and causing major traffic problems.

A friend of mine who came up on the train from Florence to meet me for lunch in Lugano said he was stopped at the border for nearly an hour as thuggish customs agents randomly questioned train passengers and demanded to see their IDs.

So much for Europe’s 26-country ‘borderless area.’

Based on Europe’s 1985 Schengen Treaty and 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, you’re supposed to be able to drive from Tallinn, Estonia to Lisbon, Portgual without so much as slowing down at the border.

This is not dissimilar from driving between states in the US or provinces in Canada.

Yet as Europe descends into greater financial and social chaos, leaders are starting to ignore these agreements which guarantee freedom of movement across the continent.

No big surprise, electing Marxists and Neo-Nazis tends to bring that sort of change. Border controls, currency controls, wage and price controls– these are the usual tactics of desperate, insolvent governments.

As times get tougher, they tighten their grip, foolishly believing that they can decree and legislate their country back to health.

In the early 4th century AD after decades of economic turmoil and social strife within the Roman Empire, Diocletian issued his infamous Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium, or Edict on Prices.

In addition to setting a fixed ceiling on over 1,000 products, services, and wages, Diocletian also commanded the death penalty for currency and commodity speculators who he blamed for inflation (as opposed to the steady debasement of the currency).

Obviously very little has changed.

Capital controls usually follow; these amount to the direct confiscation of wealth by a government from its citizens.

Often capital controls take the form of legal requirements which prevent people from moving money abroad, holding foreign currencies, or buying precious metals.

Just yesterday, in fact, Argentina’s central bank formally banned people from buying US dollars– forcing them to hold rapidly depreciating pesos and watch their savings inflate away.

At some point, people finally reach their breaking points and spill out into the streets to be beaten by the police. This is when we see social controls implemented– turning off mobile and Internet infrastructure, curfews, etc.

These tactics have been all too common over the last 18-months.

And finally, if things get really bad, border controls are implemented as a way to prevent a flood of people from leaving. After all, the government needs as many milk cows as it can get.

This is why I say that the US passport denial provision has been dropped… but only for now. Don’t be surprised to see it creep up in another proposed law in the near future.

Our goal is simple: To help you achieve personal liberty and financial prosperity no matter what happens.

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About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • amerikanka

    I usually have problems going from the outside the EU into it. But have not experienced border problems within the Union – yet. 

  • AAH

    I just returned from a 12 day stay on the other side of Switzerland – Basel. There I resided in a hotel in Saint Louis, France and daily (sometimes 4 times/day) walked across the border between France and Switzerland. 50% of the time there were no border guards of either country. The other 50% of the time, I only saw about a 10% interest in questioning people or cars.
    On the other side of Basel at the German/Swiss border, I walked across about five times and trained across about ten times and experienced about the same statistics.

    BTW: Basel is hot and humid this time of year, so bring your swimsuit and get into the Rhine for a float down through town. What a pleasant experience!

  • Tmtisfree

    Switzerland is not part of Europe (the political body), so it is normal you have been checked by the police at the Italy-Switzerland border.

  • anon.

    Thanks for the info. Clearly it will only get worse. BTW, the expression is MILCH cow, not milk cow. Doug Casey says something and all you acolytes repeat it. Here’s a secret: his politics is very sound, yes, but, shock, he doesn’t know everything…

  • Info

    this superficial american idiot hasnt realized, that switzerland is not part of the european union

  • Gene

    Switzerland is not a Schengen country, hence the border controls with Italy…which have always been in place.

  • Will

    Lugano is in Switzerland and Florence is in Italy – Switzerland is not part of the EU and has always maintained its border with the EU; this has not been the case intra-EU where the borders between Italy and France for example have been taken down – Denmark (in the EU but not in the Euro) has attempted to carve out its own exception to the Maastrich Treaty opening the borders intra EU but that is an exception…

  • Paul

    Switzerland may be part of the Schengen Area for a few years now, but it isn’t part of the EEA, so it is not so strange that customs inspections take place.

  • SFNL

    You must have been very unlucky, I’ve just passed through those countries as well as the Scandinavian countries and had no encounter with anyone anywhere – this was true last year and the year before too when I visited 15 or so European countries.

    I have a visitor from outside EU as well, not a single question asked or eyebrow lifted passing through immigration into EU.

    Very different experience in USA, Canada, Australia and UK – those four are the worst when it comes to asking stupid questions for no reason.

    • Tmaxwell

      Hmm… last time I looked you could hop in your car and travel 2000+ miles, crossing multiple borders in the US without so much as a how-de-do from the local police. You are right though… it IS a very different experence.

  • Gjest

    I don’t think border controls are all that bad. We need them in the EU and EEA countries to prevent organized crime. The problem is that the governements, i.e the EU comission in Brussels are not interested in preventing the staggering crime, they are only interested in keeping people from moving their assets. They could’nt care less if the ordinary people get robbed or raped. As it is now, criminals with weapons, drugs and slaves cross freely across borders, and the people are helpless.

  • Bobtaylor1

    Switzerland is not in the European Union and as such, is not subject to the schengen agreement. It has always had border controls… NEXT

  • Cacique

    Hey, boarder controls between Italy and Switzerland are the most usual things for European travelers because even so Switzerland forms part of Europe it is not a member of the European Union (EU) and has not signed the Schenghen treaty which allows free travel without border controls. So both countries (Italy and Switzerland) have the right or the obligation to take their boarder controls more serious than controls between countries that are both members of the EU. I have crossed the border between Switzerland and Italy quite a few times myself but was never stopped in order to get my car or luggage checked. That might have been because I normally traveled with my family during school holidays, I don’t know…..,     anyway thanks a lot for your free Notes from the field which I really enjoy reading.
    BestOliver R.

  • Lu_si_na

    “I’ve been weaving between northern Italy and Switzerland”
    That’s why you’ve been hitting border controls. Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, in spite of what many people believe. They are too fond of their neutrality to be part of anything that looks like an alliance. There’s always been a border control on Switzerland, and it probably won’t go away anytime soon.

  • Tom Bacco

    Actually Switzerland is not part of the EU in any sense. That is why PIIGS citizens are running to deposit their savings there. But I agree that at some point soon the europonzi will come down and all the capital controls will be back, or they will achieve the 4th Reich superstate with even worse outcomes.

  • Kigeleon

    No, Simon is right. I live in Italy about 20 miles from the border of France on the Riviera side, We have a small 2 lane curvy mountainous road called the Col De Tende, that eventually lets you out into a highway that goes down into Nice. It’s ALWAYS patrolled. (On the Italian side.) I often drive over for medicine, (cheaper) and other food stuffs I like, but also I drive over the mountain because when I cross into France I feel like I can breathe! It has become so controlled here. All the little towns surrounding this border have Polizia, Finanza, AND Carabineri consistently sitting in the roundabouts stopping every third car or so. They don’t need a reason to stop you and their word is the law. Everyone in the car must turn their papers over to them. We’ve been stopped up to 3 times in a single day!  Initially it was expensive looking cars they were stopping, now they are stopping everyone. I don’t know what they are checking at this point, as they don’t turn your car inside out, but I do know for a fact they are writing your name down, which from my point of view, is disturbing…

  • Justme

    perhaps just checks for movement of criminals/terrorists etc as the olympic games get closer

    • Matthew

       Every government uses criminals / terrorists as excuses for harassing people.  The point behind the free travel provision was to repudiate all government excuses; that is, individuals travel freely and to hell with your damned bureaucratic excuses. 

      But government has never made a promise it hasn’t broken.  Nothing new here, despite the shame of it.

  • RonDerFul

    Damn there are some really uneducated people leaving comments here. Simon  isn’t saying that Switzerland is part of the EU, he’s saying it’s part of the Schengen area. It has been since 2008. all you people saying ‘switzerland isn’t part of schengen’ need to read a book or ten. anyway that’s not e ven the point of the article.

  • Kris Kristoffersen

    I beg to differ with Simon’s comment “so much for borderess area” it is a tad exagerated. The Swiss/Italian border control issue is due to the tax evasion Italy has been troubled with for many years. Italians are renowned tax dodgers. Quite a few of them excel also at fleecing you but that is another story.

    I travel extensively through Europe in-out of Switzerland where I live now, I am always amazed how seldom I am stopped asked for my documents, nearly never. There was for a while between 2008 and 2011 a couple of armistice periods offered by the Italian government allowing for its citizen tax dodgers to bring back their undeclared fortune without being fined or back-taxed. The armistice is now long over. This is why there is such heavy control in that region. the Italian IRS police is “at war” literally, not surprising at all given the humongous debt Italy is faced with. The debt situation is terrible there but of course one does not hear this from the politicians of the Italian media.I have observed countless times “Italian licensed plate” cars and other luxury cars being controlled. I crossed the Chiasso border almost every week last year and often with different cars I either rented in France, Italy or Switzerland. only once I was asked for my papers and my vehicle searched by Italian custom officers (not thorough at all thou).Switzerland signed the Schengen accord in 2004 and it was gradually implemented until 2008 when border controls ceased. However the Schengen agreement allows for collaboration between border states mainly for fiscal and criminal related matters but also for immigration quotas limitation. Quotas were never enforced to date but now some politicians are bringing this subject to the political front. Mostly this concerns influx of immigrants from eastern European countries.

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