Danish customs controls: Commission will “monitor”
By Nathalie Vandystadt with Pierre Lemoine in Strasbourg | Tuesday 05 July 2011
Denmark restored customs controls at its borders with Germany and Sweden, on 5 July, in spite of the concerns expressed by its European partners and the Commission. The EU executive “will strictly monitor these measures,” it announced. MEPs’ reaction was more accusatory.
“The Commission has been informed of the deployment as of 1 July of customs officials charged with carrying out checks on the ground based on risk analysis,” explained the spokesman for Commissioner Cecilia Malmström (home affairs). Commission President José Manuel Barroso has criticised a possible infringement of freedom of movement of goods and persons in the EU and of the body of rules governing the Schengen area. The Commission says it plans to “scrutinise closely the implementation of this first phase” of permanent customs controls, made enforceable by a vote in the Danish parliament, on 1 July.
Customs controls are permitted, but within a 20 km border zone and on a random basis, whereas permanent controls are banned. Denmark is part of the Schengen area in which identity checks are also banned at internal borders (apart from occasional checks as necessary for maintaining public order).
Copenhagen has deployed 50 customs officials to the borders with Germany and Sweden. Permanent customs installations are not foreseen until 2014. According to Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lene Espersen, the customs controls concern “the transport of objects like weapons and drugs, and are not identity or passport checks, or traditional border controls”.
“Denmark has assured the Commission that it does not intend to infringe European legislation,” added Malmström’s spokesman. At this stage, the Commission does not plan to send any experts on location, the spokesman told
Europolitics. Its monitoring will be “based on Danish reports”. It may decide at any time, however, to send teams on location.
INCREDULITY IN STRASBOURG
Meeting in plenary in the Alsatian capital, MEPs were considerably less gullible. “I propose that, to protect the Danes, the European Commission introduce a visa obligation for Danes travelling to other European countries. I am obviously totally against this Danish decision and am responding to this nonsense with nonsense,” said the head of the Conservatives, Joseph Daul. Socialist leader Martin Schulz said he was “astonished” by the Commission’s stalling tactics. “I observe that a state is acting unilaterally without the Commission really reacting,” he said. Greens Co-Chair Rebecca Harms also cast doubt on the Danish argument of combating crime.
The EP is set to debate the matter on 6 July and adopt a resolution the next day.