There are fewer and fewer of us who traveled the world with those green passports of the Franco regime. They were documents obtained after obtaining a so-called criminal certificate from the Ministry of the Interior, with a face-to-face visit to the police station in Plaza Espanya in Barcelona, waiting weeks or months, to finally be able to cross the border with a recognizable credential at international customs. .
The passport issued by the states is a document of little more than a century. Josep Maria de Sagarra says in his splendid memoirs, which stop at 1914, that before the Great War you got on a train in Barcelona and nobody asked you to identify yourself until you got to Berlin, Rome or Constantinople. The essential requirement was to have a bag full of ounces of gold.
Wars create more hermetic borders and new identity passports. I remember my surprise on the first trip I made in 1995 after the entry into force of the Schengen treaty. I left home and nobody asked me for any document until I got to the reception of the hotel in Munich. It was the Europe of reconciliation, peace and prosperity, a Europe open to ethnic and cultural integration, an umbrella for the protection of peoples and nations as the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been until its dismemberment approximately a century ago and which now claims to be democratically the European Union.
Vicent Partal has an interesting book on borders and Anne Applebaum explains that there are people born in Poland, later belonging to the Soviet Union and who now live in Belarus without having moved from the town or city where they were born. Borders, Josep Borrell said in Barcelona, are like the scars that history has left etched on the skin of the earth. Geography is a decisive factor.
Beatriz Navarro’s chronicle last Sunday in this newspaper was like waking up from a dream. It is not that passports are coming back, but that Europe and the world are fortifying themselves with border barriers in the form of fences, barbed wire or cement walls. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there were only six border walls on the entire planet and by the end of 2022 there will be more than seventy, many in Eastern and Southern Europe.
The economy is globalized, but the states fortify themselves with new defensive walls
Wars cause migratory movements and trace impassable walls designed by the victors. Those of us who would like economic interdependence in these globalized times or the planetary socialization of culture, knowledge and information to coexist with nationalist and identity drives may have to wait a century or so. Putin’s war in Ukraine is about physical, cultural and mental borders. It is a recreation of the old imperial expansion of eternal Russia.
Physical borders will one day be torn down by future warriors who, in turn, will erect other fences according to the geopolitical interests of the moment. The most indestructible and dangerous barriers are the emotional ones with a strong charge of identity exclusivity, when they do not respect the other because they are different because of their ethnicity, their origin, their ideas, their beliefs or their social class.
Borders between states may be closed or opened depending on historical circumstances. The ones that we have built or inherited in our minds and our habits are more difficult, perhaps impossible, to tear down.
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