SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

Open borders: Europe’s haphazard route to ending travel restrictions

As European countries emerge from their coronavirus lockdowns and lift travel restrictions to revive their tourist industries, the EU has been aiming to coordinate the border reopening among its 27 members. But it hasn't quite worked out like that.

Open borders: Europe's haphazard route to ending travel restrictions
German police officers control a motorist at the French-German border in Huningue, eastern France. Photo: AFP

The bloc has recommended that the member states fully reopen their frontiers with each other on June 15, and many countries are planning to relax controls on that date.

But the border reopenings have been far from harmoniously coordinated.

Early birds… and those that never closed

Italy, which has been among the world's hardest hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, reopened its borders on June 3rd, lifting all restrictions for travellers from within Europe.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia have also already begun to lift restrictions for foreigners entering their countries but excluded those from nations they deem as not safe – in many cases that list includes Sweden and the UK.

READ ALSO:

Poland has reopened its borders to all fellow EU members and the UK from June 13th.

Sweden meanwhile never closed its borders to EU countries.

Neither did tiny Luxembourg – but quickly found all its neighbours closing their borders instead.

EU's mid-June plans 

In line with the EU's plans to reopen borders in the bloc by mid-June, Belgium, France and Greece are lifting restrictions on Monday for travel within Europe.

Paris, however, has specified it wants reciprocity and has imposed (voluntary) quarantines on travellers from the UK and Spain in response to those countries' quarantines.

Greece, on the other hand, has gone further, also allowing travellers from farther afield, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Israel and Lebanon.

There has been confusion on the French-Germany border with France opening its side at midnight on Sunday/Monday while the German government is holding out a further 24 hours until midnight on Monday/Tuesday.

This picture taken on May 9th, 2020, from the French side of the Europe Bridge in Strasbourg shows a few dozen Pro-European Union activists waving EU flags on the German side of the Rhine river as they mark Europe Day and protest against the closing of the borders between France and Germany. Photo: AFP

Therefore on Monday, people will be allowed to enter France from Germany, but anyone wanting to enter Germany from France will still face border restrictions.

The Dutch government has announced it would ease warnings against non-essential foreign travel from the same date.

Austria, which has already opened its borders to most of its neighbours, will on June 16th lift travel restrictions with a total of 31 countries – but has excluded Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The Czech Republic is also allowing free travel with a number of European countries from Monday, but restrictions are still in place with those deemed a risk due to their levels of coronavirus infections.

Hold outs

Spain will only lift travel restrictions on June 21st, re-establishing free travel with fellow EU countries.

The land border with Portugal will however remain closed until July 1st. Portugal has suffered a much lower death rate than Spain from the coronavirus epidemic.

However, Spain's Balearic Islands will see an earlier contingent of foreign guests when they welcome 11,000 Germans from June 15th in a pilot project for the revival of the crucial tourism sector.

Romania has not yet announced when it will re-open its borders to  foreigners without restrictions.

Meanwhile, others are lifting border controls, but are still doing so more gradually. 

Denmark opens its borders to Germany, Norway and Iceland for visitors from Monday as long as they can show they plan to stay outside the capital Copenhagen for at least six consecutive nights.

And the UK…

For its part the UK has kept its border open throughout the pandemic but has since imposed quarantine rules on travellers arriving in the country.

While there are exceptions for certain travellers such as cross-border workers and truck drivers, those entering the UK are asked to fill out an online form in which they must give their address in the UK and then self-isolate for 14 days.

Those who breach the rule risk fines of up to £1,000 in England.

The UK's quarantine rule is set to remain in place until at least June 29th.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

SHOW COMMENTS