“Much of the criticism is based on a misunderstanding of what the agreement is all about,” Espersen told reporters in Stockholm after a meeting with her Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt.
“It is important to stress that this deal is about customs control of transport of goods like weapons and drugs, and that the deal is not about controlling people’s identities or passports or an old-fashioned border control,” she insisted.
Espersen’s trip to Sweden was the second stop after Germany on a fence-mending mission to allay European concerns that Denmark’s move to introduce permanent customs controls at its borders would weaken its commitment to the passport-free Schengen zone.
“The Danish government is intent on carrying out this agreement in line with the Schengen rules and in line with the EU treaty,” she said.
Espersen explained that the plan hammered out by Denmark’s centre-right government under pressure from its far-right ally was due to “concern among the Danish population over cross-border crime … not least drugs and weapons.”
Bildt meanwhile refused to comment on whether he believed the plan, which still needs to pass a vote in the Danish parliament, was in line with Schengen.
“That is something the European Commission needs to determine… This is not a bilateral issue between Denmark and Sweden,” he told the news conference.
Bildt stressed that “it is exceedingly important that when we sign treaties and enter into agreements we adhere to them,” adding that after his talk with Espersen he was “happy to note that is (also) the Danish position.”
He stressed though that Sweden wanted to ensure that movement was not constricted for the tens of thousands of commuters who each day cross between
southern Sweden and Copenhagen.
“We want to build bridges, not walls,” he said, adding he was glad that “we have a bridge between Denmark and Sweden.”
In her bid to cool tensions over the plan, Espersen is also set to meet her
Polish counterpart Radoslav Sikorski Monday on the sidelines of a meeting of
EU foreign ministers.