BORDER SECURITYBavaria Promotes Its Border Police as Model for Germany

By William Noah Glucroft

Published 22 September 2023

With state elections coming up and migration on the rise, State Premier Markus Söder is stumping for border security. His revamped border police are five years old — supporters and critics disagree on their necessity.

Law and order often serve as a solid talking point on a campaign trail. With border crossings, both legal and not, on the rise in Germany, it has become an especially salient one. It is a topic to take center stage when Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) holds its pre-election conference this weekend.

Bavarian state elections take place on October 8. The conservative CSU has been in government since 1957 and is again leading the polls. Its chairman, State Premier Markus Söder, is feeling the pressure to perform better than last time, in 2018, where he lost over 10% on the previous election, garnering a mere 37% of the vote. This forced him to find a coalition partner, so he teamed up with the populist Free Voters, who have since been gaining traction.

Now, media-savvy Söder is calling for a limit to immigration nationwide, coining the term “Integrationsgrenze” (integration threshold) of 200,000 per year, a number that was already reached in August 2023.

Legal Gray Zone
Söder is looking to make the most out of the argument that he can keep Bavarians safe from illegal migration.

As long as the EU’s external borders are not effectively protected, we must secure our own borders,” Söder said this week during a visit to a checkpoint run by the border police. “To that end, we are expanding the Bavarian border police force.”

In 2018, he reinstituted Bavaria’s state border police to patrol the borders with Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

Söder has touted the force as a “super success,” last month telling the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that it has “caught human traffickers, weapons smugglers, drug dealers, document forgers and terrorist suspects.”

From the roughly 820 officers it now employs, Söder said he aims for 1,500 by 2028.

Bavaria’s border police, which needed special permission from federal authorities to operate, cannot do much more than carry out spot checks and turn over alleged wrongdoers they find to federal police. In its own description on the state police website, Bavarian authorities acknowledge that the presence of the border force helps boost the “public’s sense of security.”

That has led critics to argue that the extra force is more an exercise in wasteful police cosplay than a substantive contribution to public safety.