Should we tear down Fortress Europe?

Tuesday 6 October, 19.30 until 21.00, Flemish-Dutch House deBuren, Leopoldstraat 6, 1000 Brussels International Satellites

Admission is free but you have to reserve in advance. You can do this either through the deBuren website or by sending an email to

The recurrent Lampedusa crisis has focused attention once more on Europe’s attitude to migration. As the Schengen Agreement, providing free movement for Europeans within Europe, celebrates its thirtieth birthday, movements calling for tougher restrictions on non-EU immigration are gaining popularity across the continent. And as the likes of the UK Independence Party, France’s Front National, the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom and Germany’s nascent Pegida protests have been making headway, politicians have introduced increasingly tough measures on non-EU migration. This has created a perception of ‘Fortress Europe’, as well as, it is often argued, the conditions for the tragic risks taken by those trying to make their way to the continent. Others maintain that valid concerns over the effects of immigration on local wages and services are all too easily conflated with xenophobia.

Whilst many political figures argue that Fortress Europe is a necessary trade-off to ensure the long-term survival of free movement within EU, others have begun to advocate for its abolition. Has the abolition of internal borders under the Schengen agreement provided a glimpse of a society free of immigration controls, or has it justified tougher and less humane controls for those on the outside? Has it fuelled rather than diffused the growth of nationalist populism?

Much more importantly, what is to be done? Should we be defending a radical freedom of movement? Could Europe handle and manage open external borders? Or is it time for a different kind of debate altogether?

Dr Tinneke Beeckman
independent philosopher; writer; columnist, De Standaard

Luke Gittos
criminal lawyer; director of City of London Appeals Clinic; legal editor at spiked; author, Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth: From Steubenville to Ched Evans

Karel Smouter
deputy editor, De Correspondent

Dagmawi Yimer
film-maker, AMM (Archive of Migrants' Memories)

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

Produced by
David Bowden associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer
Ann Overbergh programmer, Dutch-Flemish House deBuren

follow the Academy of Ideas


Keep up to date with Academy of Ideas news and events by joining our mailing list.

Next year's festival will be packed with more debates like this one. If you would like to come, get your ticket now via our 2016 tickets page.
Session partners