Anyone causing trouble in Paris this summer might end up being taken to task by a police officer from another EU state. Policing in the French capital has taken on a very European dimension this summer.
United they stand: European police officers on duty in Versailles
The two silver crowns on his badge and the silver braid on his cap show that Xaver Mertens is an "Inspecteur General" in the Belgian police. But this summer, he is based in Paris. Every day, he accompanies his French counterparts on their beat in the city's chic eighth arrondissement between the Place de Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.
Xaver Mertens has been stationed in the French capital since July 12. His work here is not so different from what he does back home in Brussels. The Belgian capital may be smaller than Paris, but the problems are the same. Brussels also attracts a lot of tourists in the summer who come to look around the city or visit its museums. Mertens knows the difficulties that his French colleagues have to face.
A community dimension
Don't be surprised if you see a German police officer in Montmartre
The Belgian officer is not the only visitor from abroad. There are also police here from Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland. The aim of the program is to improve international co-operation between the forces and to help Parisian police better communicate with foreign tourists. Mertens' French colleague from the "Police Europe" believes it is a good idea because it has opened up more possibilities for her in Europe. The scheme is, however, still relatively new.
When the Treaty of Prum was first signed by seven EU states, including Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in May 2005, it was intended to help combat terrorism, organized crime and the drugs trade. The aim was to improve the exchange of information between various criminal intelligence agencies. It was French Interior Minister Michelle Alliot Marie who came up with the idea of organizing an exchange for community police officers.
Foreign uniforms in Paris
The foreign police officers accompanying their French colleagues on their beats around the tourist hotspots don't all wear the same uniform. Instead, they wear what they would back home. It's often remarked upon by locals and tourists.
The visitors' stint in Paris is not only intended to give them an idea of the work that their French counterparts do. They are also there to help keep a check on the behavior of tourists from their own countries. The threat of being called to account for any misdemeanors back home can have a deterrent effect.
Up to now, the project is restricted to Paris. But if the scheme works, it is expected to become a full-blown exchange. Who knows, Mertens could meet up with his European colleagues again next summer back home in Brussels.