Germany tells EU its border restrictions will remain in place

Germany tells EU its border restrictions will remain in place
Police inspect a car at the Czech-German border on February 20th. Photo: DPA
Germany has told the EU it is keeping border curbs with neighbouring countries despite the European Commission warning they could undermine freedom of movement within the bloc.

Germany faces an “acute risk situation” because of high Covid-19 infection numbers in its neighbours, its ambassador to the European Union, Michael Clauss, wrote in a letter dated Monday and seen by AFP on Wednesday.

That was in reply to a letter the commission sent last week warning Germany and five other EU member states — Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary and Sweden — over border restrictions deemed excessive. Germany was criticised for deviating from a set of EU recommendations on appropriate travel restrictions to fight the spread of pandemic.

Berlin imposed strict filtering of traffic from Austria’s Tyrol region and from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

READ ALSO: EU tells Germany to lift Covid-19 border restrictions

The commission letter noted that infection rates in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were no worse than in some other EU countries, and said German authorities were not accepting Covid-19 test results issued in the Czech and Slovak languages.

The German reply insisted that the restrictions met the EU standards of being non-discriminatory and proportional to the threat, given “the specific situation of the border regions”.

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It insisted that in any case Germany had the right “to deviate in individual cases” from the EU recommendations “to protect health” — an area of responsibility that remains in the power of each member state, not the EU.

The letter also said the restrictions still allowed cross-border goods traffic to flow.

The European Commission now has to assess whether the German response adequately answers its formal warning letter.

If it decides it does not, it theoretically has the option of starting legal action against Berlin — though the executive has never done so in such a case where national prerogatives hold.

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