Reintroducing permanent border controls within the European Union, abolishing its passport-free Schengen area, could cause economic damage of between 5 and 18 billion euros (5.75 to 20.7 billion dollars), the European Commission said Tuesday.
The estimate was included in the EU executive arm's latest growth forecast, which signaled that the bloc's economic outlook was darkening. A report of nearly 200 pages included rough calculations on the Schengen issue.
The cost of "a permanent and more systematic reintroduction of border checks would be significant for EU cross-border workers andtravellers, road freight transport and public administration and would range from less than 5 to 18 billion euros per year," it said.
The EU commission noted that extra border checks would result in delays in freight delivery times, longer journey times across the EU, and require public sector manpower to be enforced, and could also cause longer-term damage by discouraging trade and tourism.
According to some studies, the return of internal borders would have the same effect as raising import prices by 1 to 3 per cent, which would cause economic losses of 20 to 55 billion euros, the commission said, adding that it was a simulation "for purely illustrative purposes."
Governments are under pressure to tighten border checks in response to a record influx of migrants and to the Islamist terrorist attacks which have hit Paris and Brussels. Under current EU rules, Schengen free movement can be suspended, but only temporarily.
On Wednesday, the EU executive is expected to recommend that countries which have introduced frontier checks to detect irregular migration, like Germany and Denmark, should be allowed to retain them for another six months.