Denmark reinforces border controls
(7 July 2011)
On 5 July 2011, Denmark began to reinforce its borders through the deployment of additional customs officers. Thirty officers were sent to Froeslev at the Danish-German border, ten to the Oresund Bridge which crosses the border with Sweden, and ten to the Gedser ferry terminal, where the ferry with Rostock (Germany) docks. It is reported that the additional officers are only to conduct random searches, in efforts to cause minimal disruption to cross-border traffic. The Danish government has argued that under the 1985 Schengen Agreement, implemented in 1995 in Denmark and intended to create passport-free movement within the European Union, officers may conduct random searches. The legality of this has been challenged by several EU-member states however, most notably Germany, and the European Commission has stated that it will monitor Denmark’s activities, and determine if it has violated the Schengen Agreement.
Denmark’s efforts to monitor its borders for cross-border crime is intended to be implemented in three stages, with the first beginning on 5 July, at a cost of 270 million kroner (36 million euro). This will be followed by stage 2, on 1 January 2012, with an additional 48 customs officers deployed, and construction work beginning on ‘technical installations’ at border crossing points. The final stage will be initiated in 2014, where the facilities will become staffed. Denmark has stated that the additional customs controls will be aimed at trans-border crime including the illegal importing of narcotics and money, and will not be a “systematic control of all vehicles and trains that pass the border.” Further, it has argued that by only focusing on illegal goods, and not passport controls or people, Denmark is not violating Schengen rules. Under the Schengen Agreement customs checks may be conducted within a 20km border zone, but must remain random, as permanent controls are banned. This brings in to question the Danish calls for permanent installations in 2014 under the third stage of its plan. The current government is under pressure to appear tough on irregular migration, introducing the plan in May 2011. The centre-right government approved the plan through support from its far-right ally this week.
‘Schengen state Denmark beefs up border controls’, BBC News, 5 July 2011; ‘Denmark starts customs checks at borders despite criticism’, Agence France Presse, 5 July 2011; ‘Denmark steps up customs checks at borders’, Anna McIntosh, Reuters, 5 July 2011; ‘Denmark’s reinforced borders irritate European neighbors’, Deutsche Welle, 5 July 2011; ‘Danish cusoms controls: Commission will “monitor”’, Europolitics, 6 July 2011