Border checks while driving in Europe?

May 18th, 2006, 07:29 AM
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Border checks while driving in Europe?

Excuse the ignorant question, but I'v never driven across a western European border and will be doing so a few times in July. Is it anything like crossing the US/Canada border? Are there stops and passport/ID checks at all? Thanks, just trying to figure out my travel time.

john127 is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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My recollection is that the border control stations were not manned between Germany and France, Germany and Austria, Austria and Italy, and France and Spain.
Michael is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 07:47 AM
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There are no border stations currently active in the member countries of the EU in Western Europe. What you will find in some cases, like on the main highway between Hendaye (France) and Irún (Spain) is a tollbooth.

There is still a border station when you cross into Andorra for either France or Spain.
Robert2533 is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 07:59 AM
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Only countries that are signatories to the Schengen Accord have abolished formalities at borders. The U.K. is one country that indeed does have border controls even for EU citizens. Switzerland, of course, is not an EU member at all and has border controls, though it's supposedly abolishing them in the next year or so. Otherwise yes you may just see a sign entering LaLaLand and that's it, though with terrorism concerns sometimes you could encounter identification checks.
In France for example in Orleans where i spend lots of time there is a Customs office and they at times set up road blocks stopping all cars and even using drug dogs to sniff cars - a photo in the local Orleans fish wrap showed a picture of drug dogs sniffing a van with Dutch plates. So though you will probably never encounter internal customs you could be stopped at times - this apart from the routine road checks for driving under the influence of booze.
Once you land in the EU, except the UK, you are considered to have entered the whole Schengen accord area, which currently does not extend to the new Eastern European EU members.
PalQ is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 08:18 AM
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The Schengen agreement, to which 13 of the EU's 25 members are party, is supposed to eliminate border controls between signatories to the agreement.

But signatories can re-impose controls at any time . Germany has announced that it WILL re-impose them throughout the World Cup, and France has reimposed controls on a number of occasions since the agreement was signed.

Pretty well all driveable borders into Switzerland are always subject to control.

Typically, intra-European border controls are a great deal smoother than the US-Canada border. But when controls are re-imposed, there's a reason and vehicles are often searched. Queues during reimposition can ber serious.
CotswoldScouser is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 08:20 AM
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CotswoldScouser: Why doesn't the U.K. join the Schengen Accord? they don't trust other EU countries to do their job at keeping illegals out? What do you think?
PalQ is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 08:51 AM
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No doubt, 'some' people think we should control our own borders for that reason, PalQ, although given the current fiaisco over illegal immigrants here I can't see anyone else being any worse at it than us. But really our main problem is that, in the EU, the UK is one of the most (if not 'the') most desirable countries to come to:

1. We have a more buoyant economy, therefore more and better paid jobs (legal or otherwise) than in many of the other western european countries
2. Our benefits system is seen to be generous, even for illegals
3. We are viewed as being more liberal-minded towards other cultures than some of our neighbours, and have a large, very mixed immigrant population, so it's easy to blend in and feel at home.
4. We speak english, the second language of choice for many nations.

All these mean that, once inside the EU, many illegal immigrants make a beeline for the UK, so it's felt we need to keep border controls. Witness the young men who try to get here via the Eurostar tunnel. Why don't they just stay in France? After all they've already reached the west!
Kate is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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PalQ's is a bizarre question.

Does anyone seriously want to know why America, or Canada, or Japan wouldn't dream of surrendering control of their borders?

But our control of our own borders doesn't just control the influx of the unskilled poor.

If Britain let our xenophobic EU "partners" control our borders, we'd lose our priceless access to the world's most talented people, as workers and as customers:

- we'd have to impose the same ridiculous restrictions on non-EU/EEA tourists as the insular nineteenth-century dwellers on the other side of the Channel do. No more six months' immediate visa for Americans and Japanese or Australians. Which wouldn't just hit tourism. But far, far more importantly would inhibit businesspeople from commuting here: Britain's dominant industry is as a global commercial centre, and Schengen would seriously damage this.

- we'd immediately come under pressure to "harmonise" our policies on foreign workers with all those failed economies. No more HSMPs, giving us first call on the world's brightest people. We'd be pressurised to renege on our Treaty of Rome obligations to freedom of movement - just as the French and Germans have. So all those skilled Poles and Lithuanians we let in while the Good European hypocrites were turning them away...
And as for all those working holiday visas we offer to Commonwealth citizens. For all the fuss the Frogs make about La Francophonie do they give any access concessions to their former colonials? Except for the "special" housing they reserve in the banlieue?

You see, the thing about the Continentals is that they're in favour of all this crap about European solidarity as long as it means stealing our taxes.

But heaven forfend they might offer jobs to Europe's poorer citizens. Or to the people whose countries they exploited for centuries.

Or get their brains round the fact that having just about the world's most open border to talented people actively benefits our economy.

Keeping out of the lunatic Euro hasn't just kept our economy going, but created more jobs here than in the entire Eurozone put together. Similarly, by staying out of Schengen, we've creted more job opportunities for the new EU citizens than the rest of Europe put together.

Now if we could get out of the even loonier Common Agricultural Policy, and the EU's obsession with keeping out poor countries' exports, think how many of the world's really poor and oppressed would be better off.
CotswoldScouser is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 10:02 AM
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It may seem a bizarre question in your context but to me if the EU is really going to be like the U.S.' Republic of states, in my context border controls between individual states would be akin to every American state having border controls with each other - the resulting economic problems and hassles would be legendary. And we too have rich states that draw poor folk from other states - the huge influx of southern poor into the north after WWII is an example.
So i don't find the question bizarre even though i knew the answer - it just seems the EU is a charade if they maintain borders between member countries - i though the idea of the EU was to eliminate such hassles and forge a strong entity to rival the U.S. economically.
PalQ is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 10:12 AM
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I was surprised that, on my recent travels, the Swiss/Italian border, while manned, may as well not have existed.

We even walked across the border while waiting for our bus to come, and we weren't even noticed.
Guy18 is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 10:15 AM
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Wow, thanks for the in-depth responses. So, driving between France, Belgium, and The Netherlands should be stop-free then?
john127 is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 10:16 AM
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Strange how this seems to have turned into a chest-thumping competition.

Let's take a look at the asylum statistics from the UNHCR to see if everybody is flocking to the UK as some people think that it is such an attractive place to live :

"Despite a 15 percent drop in asylum claims last year, France was the top receiving country in 2005, with an estimated 50,000 new asylum applications. The United States came second with 48,800 new asylum claims. The UK was third with 30,500, and Germany the leading asylum country in Europe for much of the 1980s and 1990s was in fourth place with 28,900. Austria came in fifth with 22,500."

But this does not answer the question of border crossing for normal people -- in the Schengen zone, border checks are rare. And I am almost never checked when I cross the Swiss border from France or Germany, several times a year. But customs and immigration authorities can indeed stop cars (or people anywhere) for spot checks anywhere in the entire Schengen zone and often far from the actual borders.

kerouac is online now  
May 18th, 2006, 10:20 AM
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Ditto...Plain and simple.
JandaO is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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I think the crux of the problem is that the average person in the streets really is unsure what the eu is and/or what they want the eu to be...

The eu was originally the Common Market and meant just to deal with cutting down on economic controls between its was the thought of, as I understand it and correct me if I'm wrong, as a loose confederation of countries which would always retain their national identity but sort of as a free trade associaton much as the NAFTA between the US, Canada and Mexico.

But one thing led to another and suddenly (well maybe not so suddenly) the clamor for a common currency (the euro) and looser border controls and more and more political pressure being exerted by bureaucrats in Brussels...this has led to the Schengen agreement which is not an eu thing noted the UK has stayed out and maintains border controls.

One reads these bulletin boards and almost nobody who lives in euroland has anything good to say about political integration; especially the British. But somehow I don't think French people want to be German too as well as Italian etc.

It is a very complex issue obviously and different countries will always err on the side of what is best for them; something the bureaucrats in Brussels are trying to discourage.

At least that's my read of the situation....but as a non eu person, it certainly is not based on any personal experience and would be glad to hear what others in the eu think.
xyz123 is offline  
May 18th, 2006, 12:10 PM
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<< somehow I don't think French people want to be German too as well as Italian etc >>

You might be surprised by some of the studies made about this. It is true that the French do not want to be German and the Germans do not want to be French. But there is a very tentative project of merging Germany and France into a single confederation, and you might be amazed by the amount of support of local populations behind this idea. Countries who have gone to war against each other 3 times in 120 years are extremely motivated to never have such a thing happen again.

One thing that I have noted in the past few years is a pride concerning the euro coins. The idea that French (or Finnish or Italian...) coins are now found in the change you receive in the grocery store in Helsinki, Lisbon, Dubrovnik or Athens creates intense satisfaction in the idea of constructing Europe.
kerouac is online now  
May 18th, 2006, 12:20 PM
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The British view of Europe always evokes in my mind that famous headline from years ago
"Fog Shuts Down Channel Boats
Continent Isolated"

(not exact wording and i don't even know if it really happened but it shows the insular British view is not a current reaction to the beaurocrats of Brussels, who are regularly made fun of by U.K. tabloids)
PalQ is offline  

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