Will borders be an obstacle to the future of mobility?

  • Federico Tarragoni

    Federico Tarragoni

    Political sociologist and professor at the University of Caen-Normandie

21 March 2024

Given the principle of freedom of movement within the European Union, borders should not be an obstacle to tomorrow's European mobility. In fact, rail network maps suggest that it is possible to travel throughout Europe by train. Challenges emerge, however, when transport policies are not effectively coordinated at European level.

Addressing these challenges is necessary to encourage greater professional mobility. Today, around 30% of France’s working population lives in a different city from their workplace — sometimes even hundreds of kilometers away from it. This trend exists on a broader European scale, particularly in the field of academic research, where many young researchers have to pursue their careers in other countries. This entails frequent travel, for example between France and Belgium, or between France and England.

The challenge regarding European mobility is not primarily related to borders, but rather to the absence of a unified policy for organizing the European rail network with clear goals, especially environmental ones.

Without such a unified policy, individual countries are tasked with managing cross-border transportation independently — potentially exacerbating economic and budgetary disparities among them. This is evident in cases like the Lyon-Turin TGV line, where the burden of costs was unevenly distributed between France and Italy, highlighting the inequities at play.

It is therefore essential to expand and strengthen a cohesive European rail network. These collective efforts are key to promoting professional mobility while creating favourable conditions in which cross-border commuting is not seen as a difficulty or an obstacle.