Denmark's new foreign minister has told his German counterpart of plans to reimpose border controls while sticking to the rules of the Schengen Agreement. The move is apparently aimed at stopping migrants and smugglers.
Denmark will impose new border controls, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen told Frank Walter-Steinmeier Tuesday, a move likely to worry fellow EU members but appease a far-right party on which the new government depends. Jensen said police, license plate screenings and other measures would ensure security without breaking Schengen regulations, which guarantees freedom of movement.
"We will suggest something that is within the Schengen rules, and there will be a dialogue with Brussels and the EU Commission, but also with our neighboring countries," Jensen said in Berlin.
The Venstre party, or Liberals, took power Sunday after coalition talks with the anti-migrant Danish People's Party (DPP) broke down. With a mere 34 seats, the Liberals need the backing of the parliament's 37 DPP members, who had pledged to reintroduce border controls to combat migration and smuggling. The current plan would apparently not include regular passport checks.
Steinmeier welcomed "the announcement that the Schengen Agreement will not be touched."
For now, the European Commission has not issued an official comment on Denmark's plan.
'The border areas'
In 2011, a previous Liberal government reimposed customs controls, a move criticized by Germany and the Commission. When a center-left government took power later that year, officials dropped the controls. However, the Socialists and their coalition partners were ousted in this June's elections.
Agreed to in Luxembourg in 1995, Schengen permits passport-free travel throughout the 25 countries that have signed the accord, which Denmark joined in 1996. In an apparent attempt to clarify how the policy would not violate Schengen, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Peter Levy told the news agency AFP that "there won't be a border barrier and it's not ... on the border - there will be checks in the border areas."
EU members have debated how to handle an increasing number of migrants often coming from conflict zones in former colonies, with Hungary suspending asylum rules for a day. Anti-migrant parties have seized the populist moment, gaining support across the European Union, even in member states once thought of as friendly to new arrivals.
On Monday, France's top court ruled that agents could impose border controls at the Italian frontier without violating Schengen. Last week, Hungary - a country not traditionally thought of as friendly to migrants - announced that it would fence off its border with non-Schengen Serbia, a move that drew criticism from rights groups, Belgrade and fellow EU member states.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)