COMM-letterBack on 11th March I documented an interesting incident at the Polish-German border between Rzepin and Frankfurt(Oder) where a Polish border guard demanded my passport and would not accept a driving license as I was about to cross the border. For me this crossed the border between what is an identity check (permissible) and a border control (not permissible) within Schengen, so I submitted an official complaint to the European Commission about the issue, and today received the reply. A redacted scan of the letter is to the right – click it to view the full resolution version.

The first problem is with the lines “he explained it was an identity check and not a border control” while re-reading the transcript of the incident shows this was very far from being explained.

The second problem is with the paragraph about the modus operandi of the check – this implies that it is OK for the check to be like a border control, providing it does not happen on every train.

The third problem is that an absence of complaints is cited as reason for there not being reason to further pursue my complaint. Friends of mine who also cross this border regularly may disagree! Plus there have even been news stories about checks on this border, and how many people actually ever make complaints when there is a breach of EU law? It’s not as if everyone is as much of a nerd about this as I am.

The final paragraphs of the letter are interesting, in that they provide some additional legal clarification about what sorts of documents are and are not needed when on the territory of a Member State, and seem to leave the Commission and Member States room for manoeuvre to have tougher ID check requirements if someone is to cross a border. How that’s not akin to a border control I have no idea. The update at the bottom of my original blog entry also looks at this for the Polish law on the issue.

Anyway, as ever, the fight on this goes on. And if you are ever checked then see for details of how Schengen is supposed to work, and submit an official complaint to the Commission!


  1. Nick Burch

    Any idea what’s likely to happen if you are travelling between two Schengen states where only a driving license is accepted as ID, and that’s all you have on you?

    FYI I get a warning that the SSL certificate for expired in March

  2. Normally you should be OK with a driving license only – travel FR-DE for example. Legally you’re obliged to have your passport, whereas the circumstances it could be asked for are very few. But I have personally not tried it.

    SSL – yes, thanks, I know. It’s on my to-do list to fix.

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