Zoll - CC / Flickr
Zoll - CC / Flickr

Enough is enough. Why, oh why, are we re-establishing border controls in Europe, at least as far as night train passengers are concerned?

On the Amsterdam-München CityNightLine service last weekend Netherlands Police boarded the train at Venlo and shone a flashlight in everyone’s faces at the border.

Last night it was even more ludicrous – police controls (by French and Italian police) at the railway station at Paris Bercy before boarding the overnight train to Firenze SMN. I asked one of the police why the checks were happening and he looked at me as if I was from a strange planet and said “c’est la police étrangère”, meaning what exactly? Then on the train the cabin attendant demanded we hand in identity cards and tickets to him for the border checks, and the train did not pass via Switzerland as far as I am aware…

Sorry, but what is going on here? This is also not the first time I’ve faced similar checks either. And why rail passengers? Are similar checks being re-introduced on the roads as well? For – at least as far as trains are concerned – Schengen is a myth.


  1. The Paris-Firenze-Roma nighttrain did go through Switzerland last time I took it…

  2. Paul Lettan

    When I think of it, a similar thing happens in the United States especially if you are not driving on the Freeways. It is quite common to be pulled over by state and county police if you have out of state number plates. Even on Freeways state troopers might follow you for as much as 30 miles.

  3. This is clearly worrying. I remember taking the bus from Amsterdam to Paris and getting random controls, clearly targeted at non-Europeans. In France this is called the flying customs (la douane volante) and they can check you wherever you are on the French territory, from what I understood. But what you describe is clearly different as they checked you at the border. That’s a shame and that should be fought against.

  4. Paul Lettan

    A Hungarian friend of mine who stewards on trains between Hungary and St Pancras International tells me it has to do with trade union negotiations at the time of the introduction of Schengen. There was supposed to be a cut off date but I gather that Interpol or whatever it is called these days objected. It is primarily a policing matter and not a customs issue!

  5. Everything bad is good for something. If we can a federation in Europe, we must learn from it. In the federation, every citizen and inhabitant has to have an unlimited right to move without restriction in all federation’s territory and settle anywhere in it; and the federal constitution must express it clearly. I wrote something about it in http://federal-constitution-of-europe.blogspot.com/2009/07/relations-of-union-and-member-states-3.html. Manners of current EU members are due to its international nature and to that there is no authority that can force the member states.

  6. Brusselsblogger

    I know at least that if you pass through Germany with a non-German car it is likely that the German police makes a control when you stop at a gas station or Autobahn restaurant. At least when you are not alone in the car and wearing business dress.

  7. Daniel

    Frontier checks in cases of a hightened security situation might once in a while occur and are part of the Schengen treaty, but your experiences sound worrying. Without any apparent reason reintroducing border controls on certain international train routes is contrary to border free travel.

    Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Paris by car. Am curious to see if there is any sight of border guards on the border between Belgium and France.

  8. I also got pissed twice of the last two years, first in the night train from Paris to Barcelona with controls at the French-Spanish border (one had to hand in the passport to the conductor before going to sleep which I refused because I wanted to be controlled in person) and the second time coming from Rotterdam in June where the border police checked everyone in the train who looked foreign (including the Americans sitting nearby).

    How can we prevent this from happening?

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