The growing number of refugees flowing into Europe has placed enormous pressure on governments across the continent and challenged one of the main tenets of the European Union: the free movement of people.
In recent weeks, European authorities have struggled to deal with the sheer numbers of people making their way into and across Europe from conflict zones. As a result, the borderless Schengen Area — where internal borders between 26 participating EU nations are replaced with one unifying external frontier — has been temporarily compromised at numerous points over the last few days as governments have opted to close off routes in from neighboring countries.
This Reuters graphic, created earlier this month, shows which EU countries fall in the Schengen zone.
The Schengen Agreement — named after the Luxembourg town in which it was signed — first came into operation in 1995, when seven of the then–15 EU member states dismantled border controls and allowed people to pass through without a passport.
It was one of the first steps towards the vision of a more integrated Europe, which also led to the implementation of the single currency. At the time, Germany's then–Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, said it marked the "precursor to complete freedom of movement in all of Europe," according to the New York Times.
Twenty years later, the refugee crisis and Europe's response to it are posing a big threat to this integrationist ideal.
Here is how Schengen countries have temporarily suspended — or at least considered suspending — their participation in the agreement over the last few days.
Germany temporarily reintroduced passport controls on its border with Austria on Sunday. It was one of the first signifiers that Angela Merkel's government may be hardening its stance on allowing refugees and migrants into the country, and dealt one of the biggest blows to borderless travel within the EU in the two decades it has been operational.
On Sunday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, "The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country," Deutsche Welle reported.
Germany's rail operator Deutsche Bahn announced Sunday that it had suspended cross-border services from Salzburg, Austria, to Munich for 12 hours on the advice of the federal government amid reports of people on the lines.
The decision was taken without consulting Vienna, Brussels, or Budapest, and many have taken the move as a sign of the German government's growing frustration at the unwillingness of the rest of the EU to share the burden of taking in refugees.
The German government insisted refugees were still welcome into the country Monday and said the border measures would ensure they arrive in an orderly fashion, AP reported.
A government spokesperson also insisted that "temporary border controls are not a closure of the border."
The move led some EU politicians to question whether Schengen could survive the crisis.
Last Wednesday, the Danish government put restrictions on rail, road, and ferry crossings from Germany as a response to growing numbers of refugees passing through to Sweden.
On Monday, Austria strengthened checks on its borders with Hungary and Slovakia in direct response to Berlin's move, increasing spot checks and deploying 2,200 soldiers to help police deal with refugees arriving.
Speaking at a news conference in Vienna, Austrian Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said, "If Germany does border controls, then Austria must also strengthen border controls — in the interest of the domestic population — and we are doing this now. This will also be a clear signal in the direction of those affected that the disorderly crossing of the border can no longer take place in the future," the Wall Street Journal reported.
The checks also caused heavy traffic jam at the Austro-Hungarian border.
On Monday, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz told the European Union's Jean-Claude Juncker that the country would not accept automatic quotas for refugees and would begin controlling its borders if the government deemed it necessary, ITV News reported:
As soon as I receive (any) notification of any threat (to border security), Poland will start controlling its borders.
We will accept only as many refugees as we can afford, not a single one more or less.