Denmark Set to Impose New Border Checkpoints

Posted July 2nd, 2011 at 10:10 am (UTC-5)
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Denmark is preparing to re-establish permanent customs checkpoints despite complaints from European officials that they would violate the continent's visa-free travel rules.

The Danish parliament approved the tougher border controls on Friday. Officials said an extra 50 customs officers will be posted Tuesday at Denmark's borders with Sweden and Germany.

Danish lawmakers said they are restoring the checkpoints to combat crime and illegal immigration. The controls will be introduced over several years and include new customs facilities, lower speed limits at checkpoints and video surveillance of cars entering Denmark. The government said customs checks will be random and will not include checking passports.

The new restrictions were pushed by the nationalist Danish People's Party. But business organizations said they fear the checkpoints will harm the flow of Danish exports and some Danes said they are worried about long lines of cars waiting to cross the borders.

Germany and the European Union have protested the Danish action. They said it violates the continent's Schengen zone agreement, the 26-year-old pact under which 25 European nations have eliminated border controls, allowing free passage from one country to another.

The Schengen agreement, named after the town in Luxembourg where it was adopted, has been a cornerstone of European unity. But some governments are raising new concerns about their unchecked borders in the wake of an influx of immigrants looking for a safe haven or to better their work prospects.

France adopted a border clamp-down similar to that of Denmark in April that was aimed at curbing the flow of illegal immigrants from Tunisia across its border from Italy.

Denmark says 30 of the first 50 new customs officials will be stationed at the German border, 10 at ferry terminals with service to and from Germany and another 10 at checkpoints leading to Sweden.