German Embassy rejects claims that German police are ‘harassing’ Czechs

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Following the country’s entry into the Schengen border-free zone Czechs can now travel around much of the European Union without having to show their passport. At least, that is how things are supposed to work. But last week Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek complained that the German police were harassing Czechs with unnecessary ID checks on the other side of the border, claims which the German Embassy has strongly denied.

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek there unveiling passport-free travel at Prague airport three months into the country’s Schengen membership. Mr Topolánek reflects upon how the Czech Republic’s entry into the Schengen zone has increased the mobility of Czech citizens – but, he suggests, there’s a fly in the ointment.

Local authorities, he says, along both the German and Austrian borders, are stopping and searching Czechs for no reason whatsoever, which he considers to be harassment. Mr Topolánek’s comments come in the wake of a report published by the Centre for European Policy Studies, which suggests that now that border controls no longer exist, police squads within Germany are performing more random checks than ever – and that these searches are not as random as they should be. The report claims that Czechs and Poles, recognizable by their number plates, are being singled out.

The German Embassy in Prague adamantly rejects these claims. Sebastian Gerhardt is its spokesperson:

“The checks that the German police are doing are strictly according to the guidelines laid out in the Schengen codex. And of course these checks are random – German citizens are also stopped and checked. Therefore, we don’t see these checks as harassment, but instead as a necessary step in order to strengthen security and law in this space within the European Union.”

Moreover, the embassy points out, Czech, German and Polish police are now working together on such operations along the internal border of the Schengen zone. Time will tell if this is just a pothole on the road to cross-border mobility, or something of an impasse for Czech-German relations.