Persistence of the Border, Disappearance of Trade? Shuttle Trade in Ašmjany After Schengen (2007–2011)
The resource potential of the Belarus-Lithuania border and its importance for the professionalization of shuttle trade in Ašmjany has been stressed in the previous chapter. As argued there, professional traders did consider the border’s existence as an important factor for the success of their businesses. At the same time, the border had to keep its permeability or, rather, selective openness, in order to provide prosperity for particular people (as specified, the most distinguishable among them were those who had relatives in Lithuania and people over 65). This chapter examines what happened to shuttle trade in Ašmjany after the BelarusLithuania border reached the most recent and, at the same time, the most persistent stage, that of the Schengen border. Although Belarus and Lithuania had kept the bilateral border agreement on mutual trips of citizens, on 20 December 2007 it was adjusted in accordance with the Schengen acquis (RB and LR, 2007). Departing from debates about the impact of Schengen on people’s mobility outside the European Union, I consider here the extent to which the new border regime affected the mobility of Belarusian citizens in general and Ašmjany dwellers in particular. Sharing a critical tone on the discriminatory character of the Schengen Agreement, which these debates are built upon, this section follows Anssi Paasi (2011, p.12), who designates as stereotypical a tendency to consider the EU borders as ‘simply becoming lower inside the Union and stronger around its outside’. Studying particular cases of Ašmjany dwellers allows analysis of how the Schengen border keeps its selective permeability and how this differentiating porosity brings into life new patterns of cross-border trade in the region. Concluding the history of shuttle trade development on the Belarus-Lithuania borderland, it is demonstrated that after 20 years of its existence shuttle trade has taken its course on normalization and has become an integral part of everyday life for Ašmjany inhabitants.