“It takes so little, so infinitely little, for someone to find himself on the other side of the border, where everything – love, convictions, faith, history – no longer has meaning. The whole mystery of human life resides on the fact that it is spent in the immediate proximity of, and even in direct contact with, that border, that it is separated from it not by kilometres but by barely a millimetre.”

Milan Kundera – the book of laughter and forgetting.

The Schengen Agreement was signed in Luxembourg on June 14th 1985 and was designed to govern the free movement of people within Europe’s borders. On the day of Schengen’s thirtieth birthday, the documentary project The New Continent begins a two-month circumnavigation of Europe and the Schengen Zone. The project sets out to tell the stories at Schengen’s frontiers – of people who move inside its borders and of people still outside of them.

Quite apart from the date itself, the timing is significant. A century since World War I defined the nations through which the project will travel, the European Union has in ways become victim of its own success, shepherding-in a period of tranquility long and stable enough for peace to be taken for granted and for integration to become perceived as a problem rather than a goal. These sentiments have made their way steadily to the ballot box; whether that was in young Greeks voting for Golden Dawn or British pensioners the UK Independence Party. As financial austerity has dictated the tone of a decade in European politics, old nationalisms have offered the most affordable, readily-available policies by which to appeal to the pride of voters required to endure the sacrifices of economic austerity.

At the heart of much of this is Schengen. A small, riverside town at the confluence of France, Germany and Luxembourg; Schengen is a place and even a treaty unknown to the many millions who argue its effects. The New Continent is a response in words and pictures to boundaries that represent Schengen, some of the differences it hosts and the lives that are either untouched or governed by the agreement. The project is an attempt to recognise the difficulties of a continent’s complex human geographies.

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The New Continent is a slow journalism, long term project and collaborative platform with the aim to document the stories of people living within or outside Europe’s Schengen borders.

Evolution of the Schengen Area
The New Continent - Part I
The New Continent - Part II
The New Continent - Part III