EU: Figures on border checks during Euro 2012 released

Nearly 29,000 people were checked at the Polish borders in June and July this year, following the reintroduction of border controls for the Euro 2012 football tournament.

Documents obtained from the Council of the European Union show that 7,217 vehicles, 221 planes, 19 trains and 5 ferries were subjected to border checks between 4 June and 1 July.

The tournament was jointly hosted by Poland - an EU Member State and part of the Schengen area - and Ukraine, outside of both the EU and Schengen. The EU's border agency, Frontex, estimated that over one million people would cross between Poland and Ukraine during Euro 2012. [1]

1,806 people and 693 vehicles were checked at the Polish-Lithuanian border; 1,061 people and 130 vehicles and the border with Slovakia; 15,655 people and 3,289 vehicles at the Polish-Czech border; and 8,625 people and 3,105 vehicles at the Polish-German border.

At the sea border 5 ferries were selected for checks, from which 74 people faced questioning from border officials, while 1,759 people from 221 planes were subjected to controls at airports. [2]

A borderless area - most of the time

Schengen states are allowed to reintroduce border controls "where there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security" for no more than 30 days, provided that they notify other EU Member States and the European Commission. [3]

Sweden, for example, reintroduced border controls following the terrorist attacks in Norway in July 2011, and Portugal reintroduced controls in November 2010, "in view of the increased security requirements for the NATO Summit… to minimise the risk of threat to the public safety and internal security, as well as the NATO Member States delegations attending the summit." [4]

The majority of reports from Schengen states to the Commission regarding the reintroduction of border controls remain unavailable to the public, [5] and certain aspects of Poland's report have been censored.

The Council refused to release details of the number of people refused entry to Poland, stating the statistics "could be misused by individuals involved in various criminal organisations to hinder the work of the competent authorities and to circumvent border", and thus disclosure of the information "would undermine public security."

The Panoptykon Foundation, a Polish NGO specialising in surveillance and security measures, commented to Statewatch before the tournament began that controls would be conducted:

"On a random basis. This traditional (almost symbolic) form of surveillance will only affect people selected on the basis of risk analysis and information provided by the services from other countries."

The Foundation went on to say that checks were undertaken through the use of:

"Mobile patrols of the border guard, using specialized vehicles - so-called 'Schengenbuses'… fully equipped with portable devices with access to databases as well as devices verifying the authenticity of identification documents."

A role for Frontex

It is likely that many of these mobile patrols were operated under the authority of Frontex. The agency coordinated a joint operation in which 130 officers from 23 EU Member States were "deployed on the Polish-Ukranian border to assist with border checks and border surveillance."

Frontex also invited border guards from Ukraine, Russia and Croatia as observers, which permitted them to "support the Polish border authorities during examination of travel documents, assist local officers with their language skills, and facilitate information exchange between participating Member States and Ukraine." [6]

Officers from Member States other than Poland enjoyed the same rights as Polish border guards, aside from being able to refuse entry to the country. However, responsibility for the activities of officers operating under the authority of Frontex remains muddy, with the agency lacking "any complaint mechanisms," seemingly "in breach of the rights to an effective remedy guaranteed in article 13 of the Charter of fundamental rights." [7]

Revised Schengen rules in the pipeline

Last year, in the midst of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the French and Italian governments called for "the temporary reimposition of border controls within the Schengen area as a response to the sudden influx of North African refugees," [8] eventually leading to a new legislative proposal on the rules applicable to the temporary reintroduction of controls.

In June, the Parliament decided to suspend cooperation with the Council on a number of legislative proposals following the Council's unilateral decision to change the legislative basis for the proposal, thus excluding the Parliament from negotiations. Martin Schulz, the Parliament's President, called the Council's move "a slap in the face of parliamentary democracy." [9]

[1] 'Frontex to launch an operation during Eurocup 2012'
[2] NOTE from Polish delegation: 'Report on the temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders in accordance with Articles 23 and 24(1) of the Schengen Borders Code', 29 August 2012
[3] 'Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code)'
[4] Reports on temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders in accordance with Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code from Sweden and Portugal
[5] Council of the European Union, Public Register
[6] 'Frontex to launch an operation during Eurocup 2012'
[7] 'Statewatch and Migreurop's joint submission to the Ombudsman of the European Union', p.16
[8] European Parliament, 'MEPs give their reviews on reintroduction of border checks in the Schengen area', May 2011
[9] European Parliament, 'EP suspends cooperation with Council following decision on Schengen area rules', June 2012


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