Is covid-19 threatening the founding principles of the European Union? At least one of the most essential, namely the free movement of people? Again this Monday, the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes announced the strengthening of border controls with Italy. But it is also (above all?) To Germany that all eyes are now turning, while the closure of the border with the Moselle is being considered, in the hope of limiting the spread of the virus and its variant known as the south. African, very present in the department.
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On the German side, we do not mess with the subject. In recent weeks, the country has not hesitated to close its border with the Czech Republic or even the Austrian Tyrol. Something to worry a little about in France, the government fearing in particular that cross-border workers, some of whom need to cross the Rhine on a daily basis, will no longer be able to do so quickly. In recent days, the French authorities have stepped up initiatives, in particular taking the pen, to try to avoid this scenario. At the Elysee Palace, it is indicated this Monday evening that contacts are constant on the file. “The President of the Republic spoke very recently with Angela Merkel, the dialogue is also taking place at ministerial level, it is uninterrupted. The president has already expressed his desire to avoid closures similar to those of the first wave, complete, which would be damaging for Europe. This is all the more true as this border also has a symbolic dimension. “
Concern, again, at the European Commission, where we realize that in terms of freedom of movement, time is not really in harmony. “We encountered difficulties from the first epidemic wave,” admits to Parisian Didier Reynders, the commissioner in charge of justice in Brussels. Faced with the “cacophony” that reigned then and according to his own words in the European area, he wrote at the very beginning of September to all the Member States in order to coordinate the restrictions as best as possible during this period of health crisis, on the basis of common criteria.
” That’s enough ! “
On paper, clear success. A few weeks later, all gave their approval to a recommendation that was finally released on October 13. “The citizens did not understand what rules applied to reach a particular country. What we have proposed is the establishment of a common map, updated every Thursday, which categorizes the different areas according to the degree of circulation of the virus, ”defends the Commissioner. The colors green, orange and red were added this month to “dark red”, to take into account the spread of the variants in Europe. “The message of this recommendation was to tell member countries to take all necessary measures depending on the colors, including to deter travel in the most difficult situations, without closing borders.” In Brussels, we want to remember that any restriction of freedom must be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory. “It is perfectly possible to impose heavy constraints, we assume. Nothing prevents going partially or totally to confinement, a measure that does not discriminate against anyone. “
The message did not get through as expected. Only seven EU member countries have fully played the game. To the point that the European Commission saw fit last week to write once again to all member countries, to remind the existence of these tools. This letter followed a virulent spat between Berlin and Brussels on February 14, after the announcement of the “dry” closures of certain German borders. ” That’s enough ! », Taunted from the daily Bild German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, openly referring to the criticisms leveled against the European Commission on the slowness of the vaccination campaign. The Commission “has committed enough errors” like that “and should support us rather than put us in the wheels with its advice”, he launched then. When contacted, the German Ministry of the Interior did not respond to our requests.
A new letter sent this Monday to Germany
“Closing borders does not make much sense,” retorts Didier Reynders, who appropriates the now famous formula “the virus has no borders”. Already because the epidemic situation varies greatly even within the member countries. We know very well that today some cross the border simply to do their shopping, 5 kilometers from home. Thinking in terms of old borders, which are no longer intended to last, has no place. It is necessary to act according to the zones of circulation of the virus. “
The Commissioner, who would like to point out that the electoral context which is in full swing on the other side of the Rhine is giving rise to “virulent” debates, also sees it as a public health imperative. “Beyond the transport of food products, it is clear that the closure of the borders would have slowed the deliveries of vaccines. What would we have said in front of lines of truck drivers stranded at the borders? We are already accused of taking longer than Britain on vaccines, which is true. But we must not forget the need to reassure the populations about the conditions of vaccination, as you know very well in France. This is a major issue for the success of the campaign. I would remind you that we have succeeded with vaccines in avoiding the race between the Member States, which we are unfortunately seeing at the borders. “
Pending the decisions that will be finally taken by Berlin, the European Commission has, according to our information, decided to send this Monday a new “detailed” administrative letter to Germany and to five other countries: Belgium, Denmark , Finland, Sweden and Hungary. Once again, it is a question of urging these member countries to stick to the recommendations accepted last October. A message that should be repeated on Tuesday at the General Affairs Council and at the next European Council. Because after vaccines and borders, other potentially thorny subjects will inevitably arise in the Member States. Starting with the file of vaccination certificates.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr