Denmark has tightened its border controls in a move which opponents claim could sound the death knell for the EU’s principle of free movement.
Telegraph | Jul 5, 2011
By Matthew Day
The Scandinavian country deployed an extra 50 customs officers at crossings on the German and Swedish borders in an attempt to curb cross-border crime and illegal immigration.
This figure will rise to 98 by the end of the year.
Denmark, which belongs to the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, also plans to increase video surveillance at crossings and build four new customs houses.
Denmark’s decision to become the first country to break ranks with its Schengen peers has sparked concern for the future of unrestricted travel between EU countries.
The principle of open borders is already threatened by political pressures created by the influx of refugees fleeing the turmoil in North Africa.
Cecilia Malmstrom, European commissioner for internal affairs, warned of repercussions for Denmark if it was found to break Schengen regulations.
“If the Danish government proceeds with a proposal in breach of EU law, we stand ready to take the necessary measures to protect the European values of free movement,” she wrote in her blog.
Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister, criticised the Danish move, saying it endangered EU co-operation and solidarity, while Jorg-Uwe Hahn, Europe minister for the German state of Hesse, called for Germans to boycott holidaying in Denmark by “voting with their feet” to punish the Scandinavian country.
Heightening European fears that Denmark’s decision may lead to the unravelling of the Schengen zone France’s National Front immediately seized on the Danish initiative with its latest campaign poster stating “Denmark patrols its borders … why don’t we?”
But Denmark defended its decision, arguing the new border regime was in line with Schengen regulations as its customs officers will not be checking passports.
“It’s been proven that illegal merchandise is being smuggled into Denmark. Cross-border criminality should not enjoy freedom of movement, but people should,” Peter Christensen, the Danish tax minister, told public broadcaster DR.