Absent Danish controls greet EU border mission
Published: 15 Jul 2011 07:23 GMT+02:00
Updated: 15 Jul 2011 07:23 GMT+02:00
A mission of European officials visiting Denmark's controversial border controls on Thursday found no sign of the customs officers deployed earlier this month, the Danish Ritzau news agency reported.
The first stop on the European Commission's working group was on the
Öresund bridge linking Denmark with Sweden, but Danish customs officers were conspicuous by their absence.
However, this did not seem to hinder the delegation from carrying out their inspections.
"We chose to come on a day that suited the authorities, and we understand that they have a control system that is not public, and we do not want to have such controls carried out artificially," Belinda Pyke, the director for migration and borders at the Commission's Directorate-General for Home Affairs, told Ritzau.
She explained the working group's visit was part of a continued dialogue
with the Danish government about how the new customs controls were being implemented.
The delegation was set to next travel to the Danish-German border crossing
at Froeslev in southern Denmark.
Denmark deployed 50 new customs officers at its borders with Sweden and
Germany on July 5, a controversial measure hammered out under pressure from its far-right ally which drew critics from Brussels and its neighbouring countries.
The Scandinavian country argues random border checks are in line with the Schengen passport-free travel area and that their aim is to combat the smuggling of illegal goods and drugs, not to control travellers.
In the beginning of the month, thirty customs officers were deployed at the Danish-German border at Froeslev, 10 to the Öresund Bridge that links Denmark to Sweden and 10 to the Gedser ferry terminal which services Rostock in Germany.
The latter would later be sent to the Rödby ferry terminal which services
Puttgarden in Germany.
A Danish parliamentary committee approved the centre-right government's controversial plan at the end of June, pushed through by its far-right ally, despite misgivings from its EU partners, who warned it could undermine the 26-nation
Schengen border-free area.
The EU has since opened a probe into whether the measure violates the Schengen agreement, which allows people to travel without checks from country to country within the European Union, dates from 1985.
The European Commission, the EU's executive, said it would closely monitor
the deployment to ensure it did not violate the European Union's open border rules.
In May, Swedish minister of finance, Anders Borg, said that he saw no immediate concerns with Denmark's decision to increase border controls between the two countries.
“It is good that Denmark wants to take precautions to ensure we have no drug smuggling, cross-border criminal activity, human trafficking or similar carried out between Demark and Sweden,” said Borg to news agency TT at the time.
However, he welcomed the move by the EU to look into the matter to make sure it is not violating any previous agreements.
“The EU-commission will look into this and ascertain that it doesn’t go against laws on free movement across borders or the positive integration we have in the Öresund-region, “ Borg said to TT.
Borg said that he thought the free movement between Denmark and Sweden is crucial to the region.
“It should be easy to travel over the Öresund-bridge. It should be easy to live and work in Denmark and Sweden,” Borg said in May.
The Swedish border controls in the area are working well and are not too much of a hindrance to commuters, according to Borg.
According to the delegation, the missing customs officers were no hindrance to their inspection which was carried out as planned.
"We have no need to make a big thing of it. We want to understand how the
system functions," said Pyke to news agency Ritzau.