BERLIN – What is billed as the biggest joint operation in history between European police started Tuesday when 323 officers from 13 countries arrived in Berlin for the World Cup.
The officers, whose ranks will be boosted by another 200 in the next few days, as well as plainclothes agents, will be sworn in as German police officers for the duration of the tournament, which starts Friday.
"We have never seen a European operation in this dimension," said Christian Sachs, spokesman for Germany's interior ministry, which is responsible for World Cup security.
They will team up with German officers, but have the power to arrest fans from their country or send them home.
"For us to give up that much sovereignty would have been unthinkable a decade ago," said Wolfgang Schaueble, Germany's interior minister. "It is an excellent symbol of the growing cooperation in the European Union and the power of football to bring things together."
Officers will be deployed at airports, train stations and waterways, work with states that have a World Cup stadium, and work in Cologne inside ZIS, Germany's central office for controlling hooligans.
Countries will also send "spotters," the plainclothes officers who are experts on the hooligan scenes back home who will follow potential troublemakers.
The spotters' presence and ability to identify fans for prosecution back home was given credit for the 2004 European Championship in Portugal going off without a major incident.
England has sent 50 uniformed officers outside the country for the first time, in addition to 14 spotters.
England's hooligans were once the most notorious in Europe, but the head of the country's police delegation said it is a thing of the past due to new security measures.
"You want to judge them on their behavior now and not their reputation," Roger Evans said. "They may drink a little too much and get loud, but they are there to have fun."
Because of a banning order, 3,200 known English hooligans will have their passports yanked and will be forbidden to leave the country.
Dutch, English and Polish officers said they had no information thus far of hooligans moving into Germany with the opening match only three days away. The host country is considered easy for troublemakers to reach because of its central location in Europe and borders with nine countries.