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Patrolling Germany's borderless frontiers

June 21, 2017

Germany's federal police cannot use "random" ID checks to control borders, the European Court of Justice ruled. A man said police unjustly charged him with resisting after he refused to show ID near the French border.

Deutschland Frankreich Grenzkontrolle Bundespolizei
Image: Getty Images/AFP/P. Hertzog

Germany's federal police may no longer use baseless identification checks near borders as a way to circumvent Schengen regulations on free travel, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Wednesday.  

The ECJ ruled that random police checks could not be used as a form of border control inthe nominally customs-free Schengen area if it created a system reminiscent of the controls that accompanied international European travel before the Schengen Agreement came into effect.

The court also said, however, that Germany's federal police may continue to demand identification for passengers on trains or of people within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of international borders if the check is deemed "proportional" and done to prevent illegal entry into Germany.

The case reached the European court after a man claimed that he was unreasonably stopped by German police just across the border from Strasbourg, France, and then punished for refusing to show his identification. His attorneys believed that he could not be punished for his resistance if the stop itself was illegal.

The case has been returned to the court in Kehl, which will use the ECJ's opinion in determining whether the police were justified in demanding the man's identification.

mkg/sms (AFP, dpa)

Countries in the Schengen Agreement