France left fuming as Germany defies EU warnings with new border closures amid Covid fears
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Officials from Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) have declared the Moselle region of France an area of concern due to the spread of the South African variant of Covid-19. The emergence of the new strain prompted Berlin to announce travel restrictions on travel from the Moselle region from next Tuesday.
We are trying to soften the measures as much as possible
Public transport between Moselle and the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland will be suspended, and commuters arriving from Moselle by car will need to produce a negative Covid-19 test.
Germany authorities said police would not set up stationary border controls but will make random checks.
France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said he regretted the German decision.
He said: “We are in discussions with the German authorities who just classified Moselle as a zone where highly contagious variants are circulating.
“That implies the near closure of the border, that’s what we want to avoid for the 16,000 cross border workers in Moselle.
“We are trying to soften the measures as much as possible.”
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Germany already has border controls in place with the Czech Republic and Austria and had been trying to avoid restrictions on its border with France.
Mr Beaune said that measures being discussed with the German government to avoid outright border controls included the possibility of requiring people crossing the border to show proof they had tested negative for Covid-19 within the past two or three days rather than in the last 24 hours.
France has resisted imposing a new national lockdown to control more contagious variants but has toughened restrictions locally in places such as Dunkirk in the north and Nice in the south.
President Emmanuel Macron has consistently advocated keeping borders open between EU countries during the pandemic and clashed with Germany last year after Berlin closed the border during the first wave.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for “common standards for travel and the transport of goods within the EU to ensure the functioning of the single market”.
The European Commission told Germany and five other EU states to ease travel and border restrictions as unilateral moves to combat the spread of new coronavirus variants had hit the flow of goods.
The Commission gave Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden 10 days to justify the restrictions, which Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said had “gone too far”.
Mr Reynders added the 27 EU countries should adopt a coordinated approach to all measures taken in relation to the free movement of people and goods.
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A European Commission spokesman said the bloc risked “fragmentation and disruptions to free movement and to supply chains – something we have witnessed again the past weeks”.
He insisted quarantine was effective in discouraging leisure travel and transport workers should be exempted from quarantine or testing.
But Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth defended Berlin’s actions.
He said: “These measures obviously put a massive strain on border regions, but the protection of our citizens is paramount.”
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