It is a pedestrian bridge with the pretty name: Friendship Bridge. On the one hand, Grosbliederstroff (Moselle), in France. At the other end, Kleinblittersdorf, in Germany. In the middle, on the border line, two words written in blue-white-red and black-red-yellow letters: Welcome, Willkommen. But also, since March 16, an improvised barrier in red and white adhesive tapes. We no longer pass, the border is closed due to the epidemic of Covid-19, which is hitting the Grand-Est region hard and has reached neighboring Saarland.
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For the countless cross-border workers who work or go shopping in Germany every day, the blow is tough. Many continue to come, watch the gendarmes and, when the way is clear, venture on the other side.
Five border posts open in Moselle out of 31
Elodie, in her twenties, just wanted to exchange a few words on both sides of the “dividing line” with Erdan, the German boss of her transport company. “We take news, we chat, it feels good in these stressful moments,” says the young woman.
The fear of contagion, with the mistrust it causes, hovers over the “border state of mind” which usually reigns here on both sides. The German decision of total closure, when it was a question at the beginning only of strengthening controls, took the Lorraine people by surprise, but also aroused a lot of criticism among the Saaris, so much the peoples are intertwined.
“They see me as the man who closes the borders, but it is not me”, defends Klaus Bouillon, Minister of the Interior of the Land (region) of Saarland. The guy in his seventies, who proudly wears a large medal of the French Republic on the back of his navy blazer, recalls that it is Chancellor Merkel, in Berlin, who decides. And it is the German federal police, not the Saar gabelous, who carefully control the five border posts that remained open on the 31 of the Moselle.
“To be able to pass, I need three documents, says Nicole, 60, a security officer: a work certificate from my employer, the same translated into French, the French certificate of displacement. On my windshield, I have my Pendler: border sign. Nicole, a resident of Petite-Rosselle in Moselle, works in Saarbrücken, the regional capital. Bilingual – “which is more and more rare”, she notes – she works at the reception of an administration. It upset her, this closure.
“The money that I earn here, I spend a good part of it here. The French buy cleaning products, cosmetics, cigarettes and petrol in Germany. The Germans buy wine, cheese, baguettes, fish in France. Elias, 37, from Forbach (Moselle), bus driver in Saarbrücken, understands that the fear of the Saarlanders of seeing “hordes of confined French coming to empty their stores, as we have seen in scenes of overflows on French TV, “hastened the closure decision. We saw some Germans scolding “Hey, Franzose, what are you doing in this store, go home!” “
“Between March 16 and 31, the federal police counted 11,862 people who broke the rules, tried to pass for shopping or a walk in Germany, deplores Klaus Bouillon. And there are still 250 to 500 per day! They endanger the health of people on both sides of the border. Far from yielding to requests from elected Lorraine officials for relief, the Saar minister, on the contrary, expects … more checks from French gendarmes and police.