Swedish PM calls for ‘permanent border control’ with Denmark

Sweden's prime minister Ulf Kristersson has called for the temporary border controls on those entering Sweden over the Öresund Bridge from Denmark to be "made permanent", a move which would contradict EU law.

Swedish PM calls for 'permanent border control' with Denmark
The Øresund Bridge, linking Sweden to Denmark. Travellers over the Øresund are already subject to temporary border controls, which Sweden now wants to make permanent. Photo: Øresundsbron/NewCopter

In an interview with the Sydsvenskan newspaper, Kristersson said that he wanted to see permanent controls on the Danish-Swedish border.

“They are going to be necessary,” he said.

“Everyone wants to make commuting as easy as possible, but controls are also going to be needed. The more we reduce the problem of cross-border crime, the more open we can be to surrounding countries. But as it is now, we have big problems which need to be brought under control, both at the border and within Sweden.”

Liberal leader Johan Pehrson said that he was sceptical of controls.

“Our future is in the Nordic region, not only when it comes to security, but also as a dynamic regional labour market,” he said.

“That’s why I would like to work towards making sure the Nordic Region is cohesive, both when it comes to security, historically, but also when it comes to the labour market. We will see where this proposal about permanent controls ends up. We will have a discussion about it.”

The Tidö coalition agreement mentions “strengthening of controls” on the Swedish border, something which Sweden Democrat Richard Jomshof on Twitter described as a “central” part of the agreement. It does not say that controls should be made permanent.

“The issue of border controls is central to the Tidö Agreement,” Jomshof, chair of parliament’s Justice Committee wrote. “I assume it will be complied with”.

The temporary border controls between Denmark and Sweden are illegal under EU law, and Sweden’s EU commissioner Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for the EU’s internal security, has previously stated that Sweden’s new government must scrap border controls as EU law only permits them to be in place for up to six months.

“We have a relatively new Austrian court case where the EU courts had a clear outcome. If there is a rule stating that inner border controls can only be implemented for a maximum of six months, they cannot be in place for longer than that,” Johansson told Sydsvenskan last month.

“Of course, I have to act on that basis,” she said.

Swedish border controls in Malmö, Helsingborg, Trelleborg and Ystad were introduced in 2015 during the refugee crisis as a temporary measure to allow Sweden to better monitor asylum migration to Sweden.

One of the last decisions made by the outgoing Social Democrat government was to inform the EU Commission that Sweden’s border controls on the Öresund strait between Sweden and Denmark will be extended in November.

Sweden’s border controls have been renewed the same way, every six months, since November 2015.

Swedish MPs from the southern Skåne region are against the proposal, and are concerned that the Swedish-Danish border will be affected by controls and border police for the forseeable future.

There are also concerns that the government may reintroduce ID controls for travellers to Sweden at the Copenhagen Airport train station, where trains to Sweden depart, and at Helsingör harbour.

“These are issues which MPs from Malmö as well as Helsingborg are very engaged in,” Moderate MP Peter Ollén from Malmö told Sydsvenskan.

“In Malmö, we would like to see a swift return to a secure situation so we can return to the border situation which existed before 2015,” he said.

“It’s difficult to know when that will happen.”

Green Party MP Rasmus Ling, also from Malmö, went a step further, submitting a motion on October 20th that the border controls be scrapped.

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Denmark confirms latest extension of checks at German border

The checks carried out by Danish police on the border with Germany have been extended by another six months, Copenhagen has confirmed.

Denmark confirms latest extension of checks at German border

The border control is technically temporary but has been in place since January 2016. The latest extension takes effect on November 12th and will therefore take the checks into an eighth year.

Danish Justice Minister Mattias Tesfaye confirmed the extension in a note to the parliamentary Justice Committee on Monday.

Tesfaye has also written to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson to confirm the ongoing border controls.

Addiotnally, Tesfaye said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine increases the risk of persons “who could represent a threat to Denmark” travelling into the Schengen zone.

Under the rules of the Schengen agreement, countries can place temporary border controls under exceptional circumstances. After a six-month period, the temporary checks must be renewed.

Denmark initially cited the refugee crisis of late 2015 for implementing checks, and now states the “security and migration situation” as its justification, in reference to what it says is a threat of organised crime and terrorism.

In practice, border control means long queues often occur when entering Denmark by road from Germany as police pull aside vehicles for spot checks.

Spot checks can also occur on the Denmark-Sweden border under the Danish temporary arrangement. Sweden also carries out checks on its border with Denmark.

READ ALSO: Swedish PM calls for ‘permanent border control’ with Denmark

In the letter to the EU Commission, Tesfaye provides several data related to the spot checks on the border with Germany.

Between January and August this year, 202 weapons were confiscated by Danish authorities at the border. Just under 2,000 people were refused entry to Denmark at the border.

Denial of entry is most likely to be a result of not being able to provide the correct documentation.

Three left-leaning parties in the Danish parliament – the Red Green Alliance, Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre) — want the border controls to be scrapped.

Red Green Alliance justice spokesperson Rosa Lund said police resources should be used elsewhere and rejected justifications for the ongoing controls provided by Tesfaye.

“I think it is a completely hopeless use of police resources that they, in a situation where we no longer have the coronavirus pandemic hanging over us, have to stand at the border and check,” Lund said.

The decision of whether to conduct border checks should lie with the police, rather than the government, she also argued.

“This isn’t something we should sit and regulate from [parliament],” she said.

Denmark’s border control cost taxpayers 1.25 billion kroner between January 2016 and June 2019, according to national broadcaster DR.

READ ALSO: German politician complains to Denmark over border control