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Denmark deploys soldiers to border with Germany

People crossing into Denmark from Germany will now be greeted with the sight of armed soldiers. And a new European Union proposal means border controls could be extended.

Denmark deployed armed soldiers to its border with Germany on Friday.

The soldiers are meant to reinforce the police checks that are still in place on the border with the German state of Schleswig Holstein near the city of Flensburg. Border controls were introduced in January 2016 in the wake of the refugee influx into Europe.

Danish officials said the new soldiers would only work in the background and would not directly check cars. Their main role was to help transport suspects and perform guard duty, Brian Fussing of the southern Jutland special border police unit told reporters. The soldiers would initially be deployed for three months.

They will not be deployed at ferry terminals in Rodby and Gedser.

A total of 160 Danish soldiers were trained for the deployment, with about half of them being sent to patrol Jewish institutions and the Israeli embassy in Copenhagen. Jews observe the Yom Kippur holiday on Friday evening and on Saturday, with other major holidays occurring over the following two weeks.

Plans to free up police manpower were announced last month after a series of gang-related shootings in major cities. North German public broadcaster NDR reported that 128 policemen would be freed up by the deployment of the soldiers.

Schleswig-Holstein's Prime Minister Daniel Günther traveled to Copenhagen to complain to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen about the controls. "We do not want this to be a permanent state of affairs," he said.

Fellow politicians in the Schleswig-Holstein capital of Kiel echoed Günther's criticisms.

"Border controls do not benefit the united Europe and do not prevent anyone from crossing the unmanned border sections," Birte Pauls, a member of the SPD, was quoted as saying by Hamburg daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

Border controls to be extended

Earlier in the week, the European Commission proposed extending the temporary border controls inside the European Union's zone for security purposes. Freedom of movement is a key tenet of the EU project.

Border controls in Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Norway are due to expire in November under a two-year limit for Schengen countries. If the Commission's new plan is accepted by EU governments, the four countries can maintain the frontier checks for another year if they can justify them under security purposes.

EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the threat of migrants coming through Greece and the Western Balkans was no longer a valid excuse for border controls.

aw/kl (dpa, Reuters)

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Denmark introduces controls at German border

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