The Czech government on Wednesday approved a bill on state border protection which would enable the Interior Ministry to order the imposition of border checks in the event of a serious security threat to the country. Meanwhile, the army and police have been undertaking a joint training exercise along the Czech-Austrian border to prepare for such an emergency.
Although the Czech Republic is not on the main transit route of migrants headed for Germany, unilateral security measures taken by countries such as Hungary, Austria and Germany in recent weeks have led the Czech government to prepare for a possible renewal of border checks. A bill on state border protection approved by the government late Wednesday would give the Interior Ministry the right to impose border checks at selected places or along the full length of the country’s border. In an emergency situation –such as an uncontrolled surge of migrants – the ministry would determine the extent and intensity of the measures taken, it could impose a ban on crossing the green border and define temporary legal crossings. The measures could involve full border closure such as before the country’s accession to the Schengen zone. According to the proposal such measures could last for five days but could be extended by a cabinet vote.
Meanwhile, the army and police have been undertaking a joint training exercise along the Czech-Austrian border to prepare for such an emergency. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said the country must be prepared to respond quickly.
“Austria has indicated that at any time in the coming days it may close its borders and the Czech Republic has to be prepared for such a scenario. We are not going to let the country become a transit corridor for an uncontrolled surge of tens of thousands of migrants.”
On Wednesday 500 police officers and 300 soldiers effectively sealed off 11 border crossings, two rail crossings and all pedestrian crossings along the 464-km-long Czech Austrian border, conducting checks of vehicles and pedestrians. One of the main tests was to see how communications between the army and police function on the ground and how fast they can take up their positions. Police officers from 12 regions and soldiers from army three bases were dispatched along the border. The operation was masterminded by a crisis committee at the police presidium.
Twelve hours later Interior Minister Chovanec, who travelled along the border by car to check-out the situation at individual crossings in person, said he was satisfied with the results though some fine-tuning would be needed.
“Our target deadline – that is to have the army and police in place within five hours - was not met and frankly we did not expect it to be on their first joint training. However we are taking measures to come closer to that target next time.”
By the late evening the soldiers were back in their barracks and only a small number of officers remained at their posts along the main border crossings with Austria where they have conducted random checks of vehicles since June.
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