Rounding up the situation on Europe’s internal borders as the first French controls are lifted, and the EU makes new proposals on policing the Schengen Zone.
Also, a quick look at tonight’s ‘Our Guy in Latvia’. New secure zones for Calais (or not). Belgium to finally fine foreign drivers (and Italy and Ireland too). Easier access to Hook of Holland ferry port.
FRANCE LIFTS LUXEMBOURG BORDER CHECKS
Controls on busy stretch taken away after end of Paris climate conference.
As promised, the border controls between Luxembourg and France were completely removed over the weekend. By this morning, traffic flowed freely for the first time in a month.
Border delays on the A3-A31 Luxembourg City and Metz/Nancy were consistently among the longest of those set up in the wake of the Paris Attacks in mid-November (and during the Paris climate conference which finished on Saturday).
Drivers waited for considerably more than an hour at peak times, sometimes up to two hours.
However, many of the other border controls established at the same time – particularly between France and Belgium – are still in place, though they do seem downgraded in recent days.
Big queues on the A16 eastbound from Dunkirk to the Belgian border have not been seen since Saturday. Drivers waited only 30mins on the A14 and A8 into Lille this morning, and only slightly more on the generally busier A7 towards Valenciennes.
Similarly, there are still regular – albeit random – delays on both the Mediterranean and Atlantic sides of the Spain–France frontier.
The French Interior Ministry is not saying much at the moment but, presuming the controls will be steadily relaxed over the next days – and that is a big presumption since the State of Emergency will last for another two months at least – most inconvenient over the holidays will be the checks on the border between Austria and Germany.
Delays of more than one hour are not unusual at peak times, over the weekends and – inevitably – during the holiday getaway days over Christmas and New Year.
The major motorway crossings account for the bulk of the queues but controls are possible on any cross-border road, including the bottleneck B179 Fernpass.
Any vehicle which could carry ‘irregular migrants’ – particularly estate cars, trucks and motorhomes – are liable to be pulled over for an inspection.
Meanwhile, Denmark is gearing up to man its borders according to TheLocal.dk last week (and in fact will do so on 4 January says Euractiv). Sweden extended its controls for another fortnight on 9 December, though it did withdraw the proposal to close to Öresund Link in emergency situations according to Radio Sweden. The Czech Republic is also preparing for the ‘possible re-imposition of border checks’ says Ceske Noviny.
As Austria starts to build a fence on the Slovenian border – the first between two ‘borderless’ Schengen countries – what happens with Europe’s internal borders long term is not clear.
The European Commission will make new proposals on policing the EU’s borders tomorrow (Tuesday 15 December).
After a meeting of European interior ministers last month, the fear was that time-consuming checks would be introduced around the passport-free Schengen Zone which, for instance, would impact travellers in and out of the UK.
However (and thankfully) a leaked copy of the revised Schengen Code says that, while systematic checks on EU citizens at all external borders will be compulsory, the new rules are flexible.
‘Where, at the land and sea borders, systematic checks of EU citizens could have a disproportionate effect on the flow of traffic, Member States may carry them out on a targeted basis, based on a risk assessment,’ it says.
Catch up with how the situation has evolved since the Paris Attacks on 13 November at Border Blog.
roundup: CROSSING THE CHANNEL. UK Home Office minister James Brokenshire told BBC 5 Live Investigates yesterday that the government is working on a new secure zone at Calais due to be finished in spring 2016. No other details were given. On Friday Lloyd’s Loading List also reported a new ‘secure zone’ for trucks in the former Hoverspeed terminal at Calais, built by the French authorities and in operation by the end of this year. Update 15 December: it appears the two secure areas are actually the same one – the one announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in xx and originally expected to open in August, then November and now in spring 2016 according to a report by Commercial Motor. If/when complete it will have space for 230 vehicles. BELGIUM has finally ratified the EU’s ‘Cross-Border Exchange of Information on Road Traffic Offences’ directive reports Flanders News. It means drivers from most EU countries committing eight traffic offences – speeding, not using a seatbelt, failing to stop at red lights, drink driving, driving under the influence of drugs, not wearing a safety helmet, using a forbidden lane, and illegally using a mobile phone – can now expect to receive a fine in the post at home. The rule does not apply to drivers from the UK, Denmark or Ireland, until some time before May 2017. Despite this, according to ADAC, Ireland and also Italy are also expected to adopt the new regulation ‘soon’. NETHERLANDS. An open day was held on Saturday on the freshly built, greenfield stretch of A4 between The Hague and Rotterdam. Walkers, cyclists and the solar prototype car from the @NuonSolarTeam had a free run along the new 7km section between Delft and Schiedam/A20 ahead of its opening to vehicles ‘before the end of the year’ says roads agency Rijkswaterstaat. The new road is intended to reduce congestion on the parallel A20 into the Hook of Holland to the west (and A13 to the east).