STOCKHOLM : Since it opened in 2000, the Oresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark has been a towering symbol of European integration and hassle-free travel across borders that people didn't even notice were there.
On Monday new travel restrictions imposed by Sweden to stem a record flow of migrants are transforming the bridge into a striking example of how national boundaries are re-emerging. A year of clampdowns on migration and terrorism has all but killed the idea of a borderless Europe where you could drive or train-hop from Spain in the south to Norway in the north without ever having to show your passport.
"We're turning back the clock," said Andreas Onnerfors, who lives in Lund, on the Swedish side of the bridge. An associate professor in intellectual history, he said he's benefited from the free flow of people and ideas across the bridge — he's studied on both sides and taught students from both Sweden and Denmark.
"We're going back to a time when the bridge didn't exist," he said, referring to the ID checkpoints being set up Monday on the Danish side for train passengers wishing to cross over to Sweden.
The move is meant to stop undocumented migrants from reaching Sweden, which abruptly reversed its open-door policy after receiving more than 160,000 asylum-seekers last year, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It follows the reintroduction of border checks in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and other countries in what's supposed to be a passport-free travel zone spanning 26 nations.
The moves are supposedly temporary, but are likely to be extended if Europe's migrant crisis continues in 2016.
"It's basically every country for itself now," said Mark Rhinard, an expert on the European Union at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.
Citing exceptional national circumstances related to security, terrorism and public order, several European countries have suspended EU rules that required them to keep their borders open to each other.
It's a significant development that strikes at the very heart of the EU project — the free movement of goods and people across borders.-Asfra