France imposes border controls amid UN summit terror fears

France is to reinstate controls on its borders – normally open to other countries in Europe’s free-travel zone – for the period around a major UN climate conference in Paris.

France will have security checks at 131 land crossings with Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Picture: AP

Authorities are on alert for violent protesters as well as potential terror attacks around the conference, which runs from 30 November to 11 December.

Some 80 heads of state, including US president Barack Obama, and tens of thousands of other people are expected in Paris for the conference opening.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the controls would be in place for a month “in the context of terrorist threats that could come and stain this large international gathering that is carrying a grand message for humanity”.

Europe’s so-called Schengen zone of countries with open borders allows for the occasional reintroduction of internal border checks, which some countries have done amid this year’s migrant crisis.

France submitted a note to European Union authorities last month announcing border checks at all airports with international flights and at 131 land crossings with Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

The French note cites Schengen rules allowing controls “when there is a serious threat to public policy”.

France suffered deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in January on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery. Since then, the country has seen several other smaller attacks or attempts, including when a heavily armed Islamic radical was prevented by young American passengers from attacking a high-speed train in August.

The climate conference is aimed at reaching the most ambitious accord to date for world governments to reduce emissions that cause global warming.

Organisers expect at least 40,000 people in addition to tens of thousands of activists from environmental, human rights and other groups from around the world. A big march is planned through Paris on 29 November, and protest groups aim to try to blockade the conference site on 11 and 12 December, as well as stage several smaller-scale actions.

France faces routine protests that are largely peaceful but sometimes degenerate into violence by an extremist fringe. The country saw particularly violent protests during a Nato summit in Strasbourg in 2009, when members of the violence-prone “black bloc” attacked police and set a hotel and customs station ablaze.

The US Embassy in Paris has warned American citizens to be particularly vigilant around the climate conference.