French-Italian border reopens in southeast France
Police controls at the border in Menton (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) caused queues and frustration for drivers crossing over from Italy into France, with each country imposing different regulations for travellers.
The land border between France and Italy reopened yesterday (June 3) in Menton.
But drivers were faced with long waits to cross the border into France, despite promises of easy travel from Bernard Gonzalez, the prefect of Alpes-Maritimes.
Earlier that morning, he said: “If you are French, you can come and go to Italy freely and without constraint.”
However, to enter France from Italy, travellers are asked for a permission slip stating the reason for travel, proof of address and proof of ID. By contrast, to enter Italy from the French side, travellers need only a mask and a piece of ID.
Strict border controls on French side
A French police source at the site said: “It’s a complex situation. There’s been a complete reopening of Italian borders, but the situation isn’t the same on the French side.”
He continued: "[For people entering France] we always ask Italian workers for permission slips from their employer, or [for example] if it’s a Romanian travelling towards Spain, they need to have a permission slip from their Spanish employer and proof of residence in Spain.”
For people wishing to cross the border from the French side he said, “in principle, it’s much quicker.”
Frustration from those living near the border
For those who cross the border regularly, it can be hard to keep up with changing regulations.
Frederic van Went, a landscape gardener from Roquebrune-Cap Martin (Alpes-Maritimes), said: “They ask for new papers, I don’t know which, it’s hard to follow… it feels like there are days where, and we don’t know why, they are zealous about it. At first it was Italy that was blocking things and France that was letting people through."
In normal circumstances, random checks would be done on drivers with French licence plates, crossing the borders between Italy, France and nearby Monaco. But in the current circumstances, all cars are being checked.
‘Chaos’ at EU borders
This approach to reopening borders has been criticised by Jean-Pierre Mas, CEO of French travel industry representatives Les Entreprises du Voyage.
He said: “For a border to be open, it needs to be open on both sides. If it only opens on one side, that doesn’t work.
“What we see today is that the disorder that is reigning over the opening of the borders is the same as that which reigned over the closing of the borders.”
While the borders are being reopened and health measures are still being coordinated between European countries, Mr Mas advised being tentative with travel plans.
He said: “We are suggesting our clients travel in France first, obviously, but in Europe from July 1.” By this time, he expects that “all borders will be open, and all European countries will be able to welcome tourists".
Mr Mas suggested that people may also travel to Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, as these countries have health and safety measures in place similar to those in France.
He did not, however, recommend booking a trip from France to the UK, as travel may be complicated by reciprocal quarantine restrictions that are still in place between the two countries.
EU borders expected to reopen from June 15
The French government has indicated it wishes to reopen France’s borders, to enable travel between EU countries from June 15.
However, reciprocal quarantine arrangements are expected to remain in place. This means that if an EU country requests that travellers from France enter quarantine upon arrival, France will ask the same of travellers from that country, if they come to France.
Reciprocal 14-day quarantine arrangements are currently in place between France and the UK, and France and Spain.