The mutations of the coronavirus are causing the EU a major headache. National border controls, like at the beginning of the pandemic, were again under discussion to contain them – but the EU members want to keep the borders open.
In the fight against the corona pandemic, the 27 EU countries want to further restrict unnecessary travel. However, the European borders should remain as open as possible for goods and commuters. This was reported by EU Council President Charles Michel after an EU video summit. The feared new virus variants should be tracked down more specifically and the vaccination campaign should get better momentum. There should be an EU vaccination certificate, but initially no advantages for vaccinated people, for example when traveling.
Warning of unnecessary travel
Michel said member states were very concerned about the new, more contagious virus variants. Therefore, the restrictions would have to be maintained and in some cases tightened. However, the borders must remain open for the internal market to continue to function, Michel added.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen explained that a new category of “dark red zones” should be introduced where the corona virus is very common. People wishing to travel from these zones could be required to have a test prior to departure and quarantine upon arrival. Unnecessary travel should be strongly advised against, added von der Leyen.
National border controls in discussion
Before the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel had campaigned for closer cooperation with the EU states, but had not completely ruled out controls at German borders. “If a country with an incidence that is perhaps twice as high as Germany opens all shops while they are still closed in our country, then of course you have a problem,” she said in Berlin.
In the Schengen area, to which 26 European countries belong, there is actually freedom of movement without stationary border controls. However, at the beginning of the pandemic, a number of countries had, in some cases uncoordinated, closed borders or initiated controls. At the German border with Poland, traffic was jammed for tens of kilometers. Perishable goods did not reach their destination, and cross-border commuters had problems getting to work.
Speed up vaccinations
Regarding the vaccinations, which have only started slowly in the EU, Michel said that the heads of state and government wanted an acceleration. However, the principle should remain that vaccines are distributed in the EU at the same time and according to population size.
There is still a rumble when it comes to vaccination in many EU countries. At the video summit, there were many questions about transparency and delivery schedules for the various vaccines, reported an EU representative. Because the companies Biontech and Pfizer can deliver less vaccine than planned at short notice, some vaccination appointments have been canceled in Germany. The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter that at the video summit everyone agreed that vaccines should be delivered as soon as possible. He expects AstraZeneca’s vaccine to be approved no later than next week.
The EU Commission is also expecting new vaccines and larger quantities soon and is urging the 27 states to set ambitious goals. By summer, 70 percent of adults in the EU are said to be immunized against the virus, and by March 80 percent of people over the age of 80 and of nursing and health workers.