Free movement/Schengen area
Experts assess impact of Danish customs controls
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Thursday 14 July 2011
A team of European Commission experts is assessing in Denmark, on 14-15 July, the impact of the reinstatement of customs controls at this country’s borders with Germany and Sweden. The mission will provide input for the Commission’s decision on whether or not the measures decided by Copenhagen, despite the concerns of its EU partners and the Commission, are compatible with EU law. The controls have been operational for ten days.
“The Commission is currently assessing all the information submitted by Denmark concerning their plans to reinforce customs controls at the borders. The final decision on whether the Danish rules are in line with EU law on free movement of goods, services and persons will also depend on how they are put in practice,” explained Internal Security Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.
The visit of the European experts to the main crossover points between Denmark and Germany and Denmark and Sweden was agreed with the Danish authorities. The Commission nonetheless refused to give further details on the number of experts sent, their names or their precise tasks. The delegation is made up of experts from the Directorates-General for Home Affairs, Enterprise and Industry, Customs Union and Justice.
“Our experts will concentrate on very detailed aspects [of the measures]. We want to know what is being controlled, the nature of the controls, the aim, frequency and location of controls on persons and goods, the type of equipment used or planned and the potential impact on flows,” commented the commissioner’s spokesman. “This will give us very precise input on the concrete implementation of these measures,” he concluded.
Without prejudice to the results of the mission, the Commission reserves the right to use its powers under the treaty “should a violation of EU law become apparent in the course of further analysis,” it states.
Fifty customs officials have been deployed by Copenhagen to borders with Germany and Sweden. Final and permanent customs installations are not set to be put in place until 2014. According to Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, the customs controls concern “the transport of objects like weapons and drugs, not identity checks on persons or their passports, or border controls as they used to exist”. Customs controls are allowed in the EU, but only random checks within a 20-km border zone. Permanent controls are prohibited. Denmark forms part of the Schengen area that has also banned identity checks at intra-European borders (except on a one-off basis related to maintaining public order).