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
Cars enter Denmark from Germany in June 2020. Border controls have been extended by a further six months, Denmark's government has confirmed. Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

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

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UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”.