7th Dec 2022

Germany against 'arbitrary' re-introduction of border checks

  • A crossing point on the Dutch-German border inside the Schengen zone (Photo: Velaia (ParisPeking))

Ahead of a special meeting of interior ministers on Thursday (12 May) to discuss ways to stem migration from north African countries, Germany said it is against "everyone doing whatever it wants" when it comes to border checks.

"Under no circumstances will we accept any measure that will limit in any way the freedom of movement achieved under Schengen," German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The minister said the current rules are too vague, allowing countries such as France to interpret "however they want" the term "public safety" and reintroduce border checks. Paris recently started checking its borders to prevent irregular Tunisian migrants arriving in Italy from coming into France.

"Is it a matter of internal security if Tunisians board trains in Italy and come over to France? We have no clear conditions spelled out for when such measures as the re-introduction of border checks can be put in place. So this is about creating legal certainty," he said.

However, Friedrich's support for what the EU commission had also flagged up - the need to spell out when border checks can be re-introduced - did not extend having Brussels involved in the decision-making process.

"The European Commission always wants to have a say in a lot of matters, that is not new. We will see tomorrow (Thursday) during the discussions with the commissioner. But subsidiarity means that Brussels doesn't need to be involved in everything, just there where it's really needed."

Friedrich insisted that the securing of borders remains a national competence, even if the EU should be involved in establishing the rules under which temporary and "very limited" checks can be re-introduced.

Asked if the border debate is not sending a negative message to the Arab world at a time of democratic upheaval, the German minister said that it would have been a "wrong signal" to say: "We have a system of redistribution in place, you are free to come here."

Romania and Bulgaria

As for the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the border-free zone, Friedrich said that "it would be easier to accept their membership" if a clause was introduced into the Schengen rulebook allowing for the "temporary suspension" of a country from the area if it fails to secure its borders.

Brussels-based EU diplomats said this latter argument "makes sense" and that the two processes - Schengen reform and the two countries' accession should be linked. "It would be much easier to sell [to the public] the membership of Romania and Bulgaria if Schengen would be strengthened," they said.

The two countries, which joined the EU in 2007 but still need to convince member states and the EU commission that they have corruption and organised crime under control, were initially planning to become part of the Schengen area in March.

A joint Franco-German letter in December 2010 put an end to those hopes however. Paris and Berlin warned that "premature" accession would undermine trust in Schengen.

The next report by the EU commission on the state of the fight against corruption and organised crime is due in the summer. The report will be used a basis for a decision on a timeframe for letting the two countries in.

Danish checks

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, the centre-right minority government announced a political agreement on the re-establishing of customs barracks on the borders with Germany and Sweden, in order to track down stolen cars and counterfeit goods.

The agreement is part of a wider deal on budgetary cuts and an increase in the retirement age, for which they needed support from the right-wing Danish People's Party, a fan of reinforced border controls.

A Danish EU diplomat told this website that "everything is in line with Schengen acquis" as it would consist of "random checks" by customs officials, "not passport controls." Police presence will also be reinforced in the area behind the border, the diplomat added.

In its notification sent on Wednesday to the EU commission, the Danish government also made reference to the Franco-Italian proposal of expanding the conditions under which border controls can be re-established, an EU source said.

The matter is expected to come up during Thursday's meeting.

EU migration expert on the Schengen reform

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS (11 May 2011) "By asking to reinstate border checks, France and Italy are asking to revise the whole philosophy of Schengen, which is based on mutual trust," says Yves Pascouau from the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank.

EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos

Hungary will be in the spotlight on Tuesday as EU governments struggle over suspending EU funds to prime minister Viktor Orbán's government — despite rule of law concerns — and unlock key EU policies which Budapest has been blocking.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.


Autocrats make us all less secure

How should democratic states co-operate with authoritarian governments in the future? My organisation, Democracy Reporting International, has studied the security strategies of 13 democratic governments to understand how they see this relationship.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  2. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  3. Autocrats make us all less secure
  4. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  5. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'
  6. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  7. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  8. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us