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German-Estonian border control cooperation: an internship story

At the beginning of last June, two German Federal police officers Jasmin Bezler and Sergei Bachmann had a chance to test their knowledge and know-how about border control at the external border of the European Union. Jasmin was sent to South Prefecture and Sergei to East Prefecture for an internship. Just to give the idea to the readers what was going on during those two weeks, we will describe Jasmin’s line of work at South Prefecture.

During two weeks Jasmin had a possibility to see closely how border control is organised in Estonia. She was stationed for one week at Koidula border crossing point (BCP) and for the second week at Saatse border guard station (BGS) where her Estonian colleagues showed the ordinary border guard life at external border.

Two-week internship became possible for Jasmin after the graduation from the police academy in the framework of the Erasmus project. After the internship, Jasmine confirmed that the time spent here was very useful, she enjoyed the time being in Estonia and she could most certainly apply the experience gained into her everyday duty life. According to her, it was interesting to note that there are similarities in the work of both German and Estonian colleagues, but also she could detect some significant differences, starting with the absence of an external border in Germany and, for example, checking freight trains. Jasmin took more interest in those topics as she had not had a possibility to check freight trains in her own country. At the Koidula railway station BCP, for example, she participated in the control of locomotives and camera surveillance but also took part in a patrol on a bicycle, and she liked the activities very much as she had never conducted the control of freight trains and locomotives before.

During her week at Koidula BCP, she participated as an active observer in almost all operations and checks conducted at the border crossing point. She took an active role when it came to asking questions about national legislation, used technology and technical equipment and information systems. To get the complete picture of the work at the BCP, she was included to night and day shifts and she could take an active role while checking on persons and vehicles crossing the border. In addition, she could conduct interviews with persons traveling with a visa and could participate in profiling the travelers. The police officer Jasmine was very interested in and examined the basics of 2nd-line officers’ duties, for example, as she was exploring how visa can be applied at the border, what is the requirement to get a visa, she gave examples of the similarities and differences between the various national procedures, so even though the officer had come here to gain new knowledge in the first place, she also shared her experience received while working at German police. This sharing of experience is beneficial and will expand the horizons for both parties.

The senior border guard at the Koidula BCP Anneli Kõiv, who was appointed to be Jasmin’s instructor during her internship at the BCP, described Jasmine as a very helpful person, who did not afraid new situations and was always ready to jump in whenever it was needed. She was a very active and open-minded officer who consistently shared her experience and knowledge with our border guards during the course of her internship. Anneli Kõiv acknowledges the fact that having foreign interns works in two ways as on one hand our border guards can introduce to interns how external border is guarded, on another hand interns bring their own experience to home, in sense of they can teach our border guards how border control is conducted in other parts of Europe.

But, as it was mentioned at the beginning, Jasmin did not spend her time only at BCP, but she got also acquainted with the specificities of the rural municipality Värska and Saatse BGS. “To gain maximum experience and gain knowledge, from the first day of her arrival to the BGS, we appointed her to joint patrol with our border guards, where she was able to get a picture of how a foot patrol looks like in this area. She also took part of a helicopter patrol and had a chance to participate in a boat patrol while ensuring safety on a transboundary water body. The fact that foot patrol on a landscape can be so different and difficult from the usual patrol on a road, Jasmin couldn’t foresee before. The patrol on foot between forests and the bogs along the border took her by surprise in terms of its distance, difficult landscape/terrain and, last but not least, constantly buzzing and biting mosquitoes”, described Jasmin’s life at the BGS the chief of the Saatse BGS Arvi Suvi.

According to the chief of the BGS, such study visits are very important to Estonia as a whole, because it is a great honor and recognition to our work so far, but on the other hand, it is the confirmation of the fact that European Union’s external border and what is happening there is of interest to all. In addition, interns and colleagues from the neighboring countries bring a great deal of change to our border guards’ daily work and the opportunity to learn from the experience of other countries as well.

There have been a number of interns and colleagues from neighboring countries, who have had a possibility to gain experience and enhance their knowledge about border control at Estonia’s eastern border, at the external border of the European Union. This, in fact, has grown into a tradition as an example of cooperation between the different Member States. Similar internships have been undertaken for years by colleagues and police/border guard officers from other Baltic countries as well as from other European countries. Until now, all interns have been highly motivated and interested in examining how the guarding of the external border is organized and how to enhance border guarding in their own countries. And, we definitely don’t underestimate the power of communication and networking when it comes to a question whose number shall I dial in order to ask information or just to say that in case of a need, we are here!

Evelin Vaik