EU works to avoid border ‘chaos’ as Covid continues spread
EU countries are working to enact a coordinated approach to any possible border closure policy within the Schengen Area as Covid-19 continues to spread, in a bid to avoid mismatched rules and border “chaos”.
In a letter to the EU Council ahead of a meeting on the issue, German representatives wrote: “We must avoid uncoordinated responses and safeguard the integrity of the Schengen Area.”
Berlin, which currently holds the presidency of the EU Council, is working closely with France to avoid a repeat of the confusion seen across European borders in March.
David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, said on Wednesday September 2: “We must avoid chaos.”
Current discussions appear to be based on the idea of each member state working from a central data list, which would allow the EU to monitor the spread of the virus across the area as a whole.
Yet, there is not yet a consensus on which data should be used to make the analysis, with some saying that the number of positive cases per 100,000 residents is not accurate enough.
Similarly, the threshold of cases above which actions would need to be taken is also not yet clear.
The talks come as member states appear to be imposing a variety of rules and regulations.
Hungary re-closed its borders on September 1 - to all countries except the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland - and other nations continue to have different and changing rules in place, such as the UK, whose quarantine list still includes arrivals from France, and is updated regularly.
In contrast, Sweden remains completely open, and residents are not even being advised to wear masks.
Denmark has closed its borders to France, and Belgium is asking any arrivals from “red zones” in France to enter into a 14-day quarantine. Similarly, Germany is also asking arrivals from “risk areas” in France - such as Ile-de-France ou Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur - to self-isolate.
Rules for “quarantines” vary across different countries too, from 10 to 14 days, and there are also variations on whether tests should be undertaken on departure, on arrival; and whether 48 or 72 hours before travel.
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French MEP François-Xavier Bellamy, from the Les Républicains (LR) party, said: “We have the impression that a second wave of Covid-19 will find Europe in just as much disarray as the first.”
He added: “These restrictions on movement are a unilateral violation of Schengen. In normal times, the Commission would not allow it.”
The European Commission has, in fact, sent a warning to the Hungarian capital Budapest of the “importance of safeguarding the integrity of the Schengen Area, and to apply non-discriminatory border measures to all citizens and EU residents”, as tweeted Belgian Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice.
The French junior foreign affairs minister Clément Beaune told news service France Inter that the European rules needed clarification.
He said: “We have a 1,000-page method to evaluate the deficit up to the eighth decimal point, but we do not have the same methods to evaluate safety [and health] risks.”