Foreign uniforms can guard border to Russia

Border guard exercise. Photo: Jonas Karlsbakk

Norway has accepted that foreign squads can control the border to Russia. The guards will be wearing their own national uniforms with armband showing EU flag, carry out border patrols and check and stamp travel documents in critical situations.


In a pre-Christmas Council of State meeting the Norwegian King Harald V approved the government’s suggestion to join EUs rapid reaction teams of border guards. The decision by Norway on December 12th last year is a follow-up of the European Parliament’s approval in April 2007 of the European Commission’s proposal for the creation of Rapid Border Intervention Team.

The Commission proposed the establishment of such EU border squads to deal with critical situations member states could face in the event of high influx of illegal immigrants. The border squads can directly and efficiently assist the national border guard services of Member States in such situation, including with regard to the correct implementation of the Schengen Border Code.

Norway is not an EU member state, but a member of the Schengen-agreement, an international treaty concluded among certain European nations dealing with cross-border legal arrangements and the abolition of systematic border controls among the participating countries.

A challenge for Norway by joining the Rapid Border Intervention Team agreement is the fact that Norway’s external Schengen-border to Russia in the north is guarded by military forces, while the EU’s new border squads is a solidly civilian structure consisting of civilian border guards of the other EU member states.

While the juridical organ supervising the border control is the local police in Eastern Finnmark, the daily patrols along Norway’s 196 kilometres long border to Russia are military soldiers under the command of the Armed Forces. Some 250 soldiers patrol the border to Russia today.

How the Norwegian soldiers in case of an emergency situation at the border to Russia will cooperate with foreign forces wearing their national uniforms with armband showing EU flags is not elaborated in the Norwegian approval.

In the early 90ties, Norwegian authorities made comprehensive plans to deal with emergency situations at the border to Russia in the north. Several scenarios were detailed, mainly connected to border-crossing violations of huge numbers of refugees.

Some scenarios were related to consequences of nuclear accidents with contaminated people seeking over the border to Norway. Other scenarios involved different activities related to cross-border organized crime like smuggling of fissile material for nuclear weapons or radioactive isotopes for so-called dirty-bombs.

Next time any scenarios will be drilled at the border to Russia, the Norwegian authorities involved might have to invite EU’s Rapid Border Intervention Teams to the exercise. The teams would be assembled by the EU border security agency Frontex, from the lists of experts in the member states, according to the approved memorandum by the European Commission.

In a real situation, if Norway needs assistance from the border squads of the European Union, the foreign guards would be temporarily under the control of the Norwegian authorities.

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