A challenge from the right in the town of Freilassing threatens German stability

On the A8 motorway between Salzburg and Munich, a policeman signals to a black BMW with Bulgarian number plates to pull over, and the driver parks and opens the boot. Five police officers, one armed with an assault rifle, ask him to remove its contents, and two female passengers dressed in leggings and flip-flops duly unload the bulging plastic bags inside and watch with increasing irritation as the police rifle through their contents. After about 10 minutes, having checked the Bulgarians’ documents, the police wave them on.

This is the Schwarzbach crossing between Austria and Germany, which the German federal police have been controlling since the late summer of 2015 when tens of thousands of refugees poured over the border. Pictures of the town’s bridge crammed with some of the thousands who arrived each day became one of the dramatic illustrations of the refugee crisis then playing out in Europe. Set up as a temporary border point near the town of Freilassing in Bavaria, the German government now has to reapply to the European commission every six months for the special permission required for it to continue to operate.

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