Football diplomacy - Security and mobility policy innovations from Euro 2012

5 June 2012

 “For once we’re not talking about the euro crisis but a major sports event. This year sees two major sports events in fact: Euro 2012 and the Olympics in London. Hopefully they’ll improve the European mood and show that Europe isn’t just the ill patient of global politics, but also a place of tremendous fun,” said Ambassador Jan Tombiński, the permanent representative of Poland to the EU.

He said preparations for the tournament had been marked by a rapprochement between Poland and Ukraine in three areas:

  1. Increased cooperation between public services, especially regarding border control.
  2. Increased cooperation regarding infrastructure, for example border crossings or railways.
  3. Increased people-to-people contact.

The two countries are on opposite sides of the Schengen border. “Poland is bound by Schengen rules governing the EU’s external border. The clear objective is to ensure the safe conduct of the tournament,” Tombiński said.

Euro 2012 had already served as a test of cooperation between the Polish and Ukrainian police and security forces. “We widely used experts from the UK, Belgium and Austria. The strategy was ‘care, tolerance, suppression,” the ambassador said.

He explained that officers from both countries had practised joint police patrols and undergone joint specialist training. They had also made working arrangements with police forces in the fans’ countries of origin, he said.

The ambassador said Euro 2012 would offer important lessons in establishing new and enhanced common standards of security and safety between EU and non-EU countries.

“It’s about striking the right balance between facilitating fair and free access, and providing security,” he explained.

“We’ve established a framework of cooperation with our Ukrainian partners to ensure that they follow European standards,” said Tombiński, explaining that Poland had inherited an EU handbook for cooperation on major international sports events.

“We’re prepared for the event. The preparation process lasted a few years. Preparing for a European Championships is a multidisciplinary process involving transport, tourism and infrastructure: it’s not just about security,” said Agnieszka Wawrzyk, head of the European unit in the Department of EU and International Cooperation at the Polish Interior Ministry.

“We needed to make sure that no-one was working alone and that everything was coordinated. We created a committee to gather everyone involved,” Wawrzyk said.

She said policies were driven by the need to ensure the safety of citizens living in the host cities, as well as of the fans themselves. “Don’t make fans feel under surveillance the whole time. Strike a balance between minimal interruptions to the personal freedom of those attending the event and ensuring maximum security and safety,” she said.

She stressed the importance of coordinating security and mobility plans.

“Ukrainian and Polish police have had a legal background of cooperation since 1992, also on fighting organised crime. We conclude detailed protocols on cooperation every year, to cover specific events,” said Colonel Volodymyr Rydvan, first secretary and representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ukraine.

Special steps taken for Euro 2012 included the recruitment of extra manpower and the establishment of a permanent working group in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he explained.

“We’ve deployed security liaison officers to every team playing in Ukraine. These officers have a good command of English and knowledge of the national language of the particular team. These officers must be capable of speaking to nationals of the team concerned – even hooligans!” Rydvan said.

“We’re temporarily reintroducing border checks at Poland’s borders during Euro 2012 from 4 June to 1 July. The main goal is to prevent people from entering who may affect security during the tournament,” said Sławomir Markowski, a Border Guard Major in the Border Management Department at the Headquarters of the Polish Border Guard.

“Border checks will be tailored to that objective and based on risk assessment. They won’t check every car. It won’t hamper public traffic. We’ve observed how it has been implemented by other countries in the past. It can be done in a flexible manner,” Markowski said.