Build that wall! Barriers recede 30 years after the Berlin Wall

PARIS: When it collapsed 30 years ago, many expected its disappearance to foreshadow the end of the barriers between borders and isolationism.

But with the planned wall of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, on the border with Mexico, the separation barrier of the West Bank and the anti-immigrant fence of Hungary against Serbia and Croatia, the artificial divisions are rising again.

Scary buildings, both real and imaginary, are being built everywhere, the Transnational Institute, a group of experts based in Amsterdam, wrote in its Building Walls report last year.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, a structure erected in 1961 to separate Allied East Berlin from the Soviets of the democratic West, was welcomed with joy by Germans and millions of people who dreamed of cooperation and openness in a more globalist and liberal world.

But the optimism and idealism of 1989 was ephemeral, said Alexandra Novosseloff, principal investigator for the International Institute of Peace in New York.

The walls are still there and have multiplied. There is more today than 30 years ago, he told AFP.

Not only are physical walls being built, but also political and legislative.

The United States and some European countries have been adopting an increasingly harsh stance against migrants, and it is the result that citizens choose to leave a European Union without barriers created exactly to end recurrent and bloody conflicts on the continent, often on border disputes.

Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, argues that globalization, ironically, has fueled a resurgence of nationalism.

After the initial avalanche of freedom, many people began to worry that too much openness would jeopardize their national identity and values.

Then everything changed on September 11, 2001.

It was really after the terrorist attacks in the United States, said Tertrais, that the barriers began to multiply.

Raphael Bossong, of the German Institute for International Affairs and Security in Berlin, said the war after September 11 terrorism It fueled a sense of paranoia and erosion of political freedoms.

In the late 2000s, economic shocks, growing inequality and a growing political reaction against globalization led to a resurgence of nationalism in the West, he wrote in a blog titled New Walls I: militarize borders in Europe for the investigation of Bertelsmann Stiftung. Foundation.

The resurrection of the physical borders has acquired enormous symbolic importance.

Elisabeth Vallet, a political analyst at the University of Quebec to Montreal (UQAM) of Canada, said she had counted 70 to 75 border walls built or built worldwide, compared to 15 in 1989.

Placed end to end, the existing walls in the world would extend more than 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles), said Vallet, enough to cover the circumference of the Earth and divide our planet into two parts.

Former French diplomat Michel Foucher, author of The Return of Borders, argues that the vulnerability that many people feel in the face of globalization has led to more state protectionism and, by extension, more walls.

The wall serves as a metaphor, it is supposed to calm our fears, Foucher said.

For Vallet, author of Borders, fences and walls: a state of insecurity, at a time when populism is growing rapidly, a wall is a quick solution that a populist government can quickly exploit.

As migration flows from south to north, more and more walls seek to keep foreigners away.

The member states of the European Union and the Schengen Area have built almost 1,000 km of walls, the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Wall, since the 1990s to prevent displaced people from migrating to Europe, according to the Transnational Institute

Despite its growing popularity, however, there is little evidence of its efficiency, Vallet said.

For example, they do not stop drug trafficking, most of which enter the United States through border crossings, he told AFP via email.

What is clear is that the ever-changing role of borders serves as an indicator of the health of liberal democracy, Bossong said.