The real test for the police will not be at the grounds but at Czech vborders which will temporarily become the EU's new frontiers
Football’s European Championships launch on June 8 in host countries Poland and Ukraine. Czech police have already been fine tuning their preparations against possible violence from local supporters with their Polish counterparts given the fact that all the Czech’s initial group games will be staged not that far across the border at Wroclaw.
It’s clear from the media reports that that around 60 Czech police have been tasked to look out for problems on the ground in Poland. These are specialists in football violence drawn from regional forces across the country. The police preparations have been headed by former police president and current deputy president Vladislav Husák.
But the biggest problems for Czech police will not stem directly from the behavior of the fans themselves, technical preparations for them include cage-like enclosures at some of stadia where they can be better observed and controlled by stewards. Let’s hope that by the end of the championships Czech fans will be remembered as being amongst the best behaved.
New EU border
No, the real challenge for Czech police will come far away from where the matches will be played and will stem from the problems of dealing with the so-called European free movement Schengen zone, which normally divides the two championship host countries Poland and Ukraine. The principle of the zone, based on tough checks at its outer borders and easy transit of internal borders with only sporadic police checks in other countries, will, for a time, no longer apply.
During the championships, the flux of traffic across the border will be much greater and it can be expected that some people will seek to profit from that fact by seeking to get into certain European countries where they would previously have faced greater problems and higher risks of getting caught. This applies to countries from the former Soviet Union as well as countries facing economic or military instability.
It can be expected that countries bordering Poland, such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany will for the temporary period of the Euro 2012 football championships act in effect like the new borders of the Schengen zone with border checks reintroduced for the duration. This means that passport controls, abandoned as a result of the Schengen agreement between European countries, are likely to take place once again at border crossing points with the disappearance of the easy border crossings between the Czech Republic and Poland that everyone has become accustomed to in recent years.
Stretched beyond limits?
The main problem from this stems from whether Czech Police really have the capacity to once again monitor the 760 kilometers of Czech-Polish border. Personally, I do not feel that they have. Personnel of the Foreigners’ Police has been reduced to a minimum. Even with reinforcements from the transport and normal police services it would be incapable of meeting this past challenge.
It should be mentioned along the way that support services for this type of policing are now almost totally lacking along most sections of the border. I remember from the era of regular border checks that police even then often lack even a basic roof to cover themselves when the weather was poor or any type of other amenities when on service.
To carry out an effective, uniform, and high level monitoring of what could for a few weeks become the effective borders of the EU, it looks like Czech Police will have to draft in support from the Czech Army or quickly sign bilateral agreements with other EU countries aimed at ensuring their help to carry out the temporary border checks. That would require financing from the police force’s already stretched finances and it is difficult to see where that cash could come from given the already under pressure budget.
That fact already seems to have been recognized by police bosses with a blanket ban already put in place on any police leave being given throughout the month of June.