Europe’s border dilemma was on display in Berlin on Thursday, where Ms. Merkel stood side by side with Mr. Orban at a news conference.
Protecting Europe’s borders must not mean keeping out the needy, Ms. Merkel said. “If Europe with its values is to continue to play a role in the world, then Europe cannot simply turn its back on hardship and suffering.”
Mr. Orban, who has long spoken about migration as an existential threat to European civilization, struck a different tone, saying, “The strategic goal of Hungary is to protect Europe.”
Pierre Vimont, a former French ambassador to the United States, said it was often overlooked that the Schengen system allowed the reintroduction of national border controls as a temporary measure. Such controls have existed for some time between France and Belgium and France and Italy, too. “If this can appease some of the populists for the moment, so be it,” Mr. Vimont said.
“So we can say we’re still inside the Schengen system,” he said. “It’s not very satisfactory but it’s a way of dealing with current pressure.” But temporary measures tend to last, he conceded.
He noted that the open-border zone, like the euro, was only half-built. European leaders eliminated internal borders without reinforcing external borders — because that was expensive, or touched on the sovereignty of countries like Greece and Italy or simply because they did not foresee the problems of terrorism or a migration crisis like 2015.
But the days of magical thinking are over, Mr. Kurz insisted. No state or group of states can fail to protect its borders, he said. “The European Union is not only a great idea, but it’s also an idea we must keep working on,” he said. “What every generation must do is try to make Europe better than it was in the past.”
Whether that will change it beyond recognition is anyone’s guess.