Investigation demanded into allegations of harassment of Czech drivers by German and Austrian police


Long standing complaints by Czech drivers that they are being harassed by German and Austrian police have hit new heights amid reports that they have taken a humiliating turn. Former prime minister Mirek Topolánek says there is a clear case that European open border rules have been broken. His successor Jan Fischer has called on the Czech interior ministry to investigate.

Automatic checks at borders between Germany and Austria and the Czech Republic were supposed to have disappeared at the end of 2007 with the widening of the passport-free Schengen zone.

Ahead of that move there were alarmist stories in Austria and Germany about a crime wave crossing the unprotected border from the poorer East. These fears failed to materialise but there have nonetheless been consistent reports that Czech drivers are being singled out for special checks just across the border in both countries.

Former prime minister Mirek Topolánek this week said there was a clear case that police in Bavaria were harassing Czech drivers and European free movement rules are being broken. He has called for an apology from Germany.

Civic Democrat member of the European Parliament Ivo Strejček for a second time in two years has demanded the European Commission investigates whether Germany is breaking the rules. He says his demand was sparked by reports in the Czech papers of apparently new and humiliating checks being carried out in Bavaria.

“There was described the evidence of a Czech driver who was checked and he was forced to give a urine sample at the side of the road, which in my understanding is a humiliating way of doing things.”

Such checks are partly a result of the new Czech rules in force since the start of January which do not regard possession of a certain amount of the soft drug marihuana for individual use as a crime. Bavaria declared that it would boost its inspections because of the new law.

Meanwhile, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer on Tuesday demanded the Ministry of Interior look into the reports of harassment on the German and Austrian borders and report back to him. The ministry says it has already been checking on complaints from Czechs and informing them in advance of their rights and intends to step up its activity.

German and Bavarian authorities deny that Czechs are being subject to any special measures. Bavarian minister of the interior Joachim Hermann says Czechs only account for a quarter of those stopped and checked last year. But Mr. Hermann has also praised tougher police checks on Czech borders for a drop of more than two percent in the local crime rate in 2009.

Mr Strejček says he expects the European Commission to get back to him in April at the earliest on this serious and sensitive issue.