puttgardenToday I’m at least as angry at myself as a blogger (who was not adequately prepared) as I am about yet another breach of EU law and Schengen.

My ICE train had just left the ferry, heading into Germany at Puttgarden at 1244, and was stationary at the station when 2 German police (Polizei) boarded the carriage and demanded to see passports. They were so swift that I was unable to ready myself to make a recording of the conversation.

As normal with my previous experiences (Padborg Jan 2013, Modane Oct 2012, Padborg Sep 2012) I asked the policeman why they were asking for passports as Germany and Denmark are in Schengen. The reaction was predictable – because we can.

However, conscious of my previous experience I was ready with the follow up question – is this check a border control, or a check on the territory of a Member State? The latter they said. So then, I asked, how is what you are doing here any different for me as a citizen in comparison to a border control? How does this comply with Article 21 of the Schengen Borders code? – which I have printed out in German and hence showed to the policeman. His response was, rather flippantly, that it would take too long to explain it, and that anyway, under German law they had the right to control in this area, and indeed had an office in Puttgarden (he vaguely gesticulated out of the window). I thought Schengen meant we had a border free EU, I asked. No, the borders still exist he said.

I of course had no option but to show my passport – when asked to show ID by a police officer you have to comply as far as I am aware (there is Ausweispflicht). So they paid a cursory glance at my passport (no check with any sort of machine), to check the picture looked like me (and indeed told me they were just checking the photo matched), and off they went.

So what are the conclusions this time? This experience is more in common with the Modane experience (with the exception that the police were much politer here) than it does with the Padborg experience, because in the end when in Germany I have to show ID. The difference to Modane however was that this check was at the border, in a stationary train – not even any effort to make it look like it was not a border check. That is what caught me so unaware – I would not have expected the German police to be so blatant.

Once again the question cannot be answered – how did this check “not have border control as an objective” (Article 21, 1, (I), Schengen Borders Code). So once again the European Commission is going to receive an official complaint from me. That means I’ve been checked twice in a week, and I’m heading through Padborg again in two days…


  1. The moral of the story being that if you want to travel in the Schengen Area as an illegal citizen, just make sure your passport picture resembles your own face. That is, as far as I can tell, the ONLY use of those checks. Of course, that’s all we’re supposed to be able to tell. I’m sure the police in both DK and DE are looking for anything suspicious (weapons, drugs, shabby clothing) – but in order to avoid charges of blatant discrimination they do a shallow check of everyone.

    Have you contacted Danish/German border control formally to have a chat about what they are up to?

    • This was a first check in Germany. So I haven’t made contact there.

      For Denmark – after the experience last week I now know precisely what the rules are and will see what happens next time I’m checked, probably Wednesday in Padborg.

  2. At least they’re in Schengen. Spare a thought for those of us in Britain. Can’t get in our out without asking permission and being entered on the government’s computers.

    • Don’t get me started on the UK situation… But in the UK there’s no expectation it should be border free, hence I’m resigned to delay. In Schengen it should work but often doesn’t.

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