Border region fears Danish border checks will hit commerce
Germans living in the region near Denmark fear the thriving cross-border trade and traffic will be significantly affected by the re-imposition of border controls recently announced by the Danish authorities.
“The stricter checks and new border facilities will erect new barriers in the heads of the people,” said Anke Spoorendonk, head of the South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW). The Danish minority party sits in the parliament of the northern German state Schleswig-Holstein.
“The resentment and mutual incomprehension is significant at a political level.”
She said that even though the Danish government was styling the new controls – set to begin in a few weeks - as an attempt to combat illegal imports and criminal gangs from eastern countries, they were actually checks on normal people.
“For Denmark it is about checking people, even when it is designed as customs checks in order not to infringe the Schengen Convention,” she said.
“They will hit the commuters who work in Denmark. They will influence the flow of goods over the border, which will be slower and therefore more expensive.”
Danish holidaymakers will also have to endure long queues at the border, the modern, high-tech border checks notwithstanding, she said.
“Even worse for me, is the enormous step backwards which the upgrading of the border means for the psychological integration of the German-Danish borderlands.”
She attacked the Danish government’s decision as being one made purely on domestic grounds, while the foreign policy effects it would have were being completely ignored.
“The fact that an election is due in Denmark means changes should not be expected,” she said.
“The Danish People’s Party has, for more than a decade, successfully ramped up xenophobia and recently in particular, of eastern European criminals, and that has hugely influenced the policies of nearly all parties and the feeling among the people,” she said.
Yet she said there was no sense in trying to intervene from south of the border: “There only remains the hope that people will change their minds when they experience the checks and their effects.”
Many Danes cross the border to Germany to load up their cars with beer, which is significantly cheaper on this side of the border.
Simon Faber, mayor of Flensburg, also a member of the SSW, said it was not just beer, but also increasingly cheaper services such as dental work and car inspections which were attracting thrifty Danes to Germany.
The 21 companies represented by the Interest Association of Border Traders (IGG) say they turnover around €500 million a year.
Faber said although he certainly did not welcome the Danish plans to re-introduce customs checks, he was confident it would not affect this trade.
“I think it will not create any reduction to speak of,” he said, despite acknowledging that Danish shoppers were significantly wealthier than their German counterparts.
“They bring on average 30 percent more buying power to a town centre shopping trip than comparable German customers,” he said.
Top German politicians slammed the Danish government’s announcement earlier this month that it was going to re-introduce the border controls, saying it went against the Schengen Convention which ensures free movement of people between 25 European countries, 22 of which are EU members.
Denmark has consistently said it was taking action to fight cross-border crime such as drug trafficking.