German border controls cause concern

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Tue 16th Feb, 2021

The introduction of German border controls has been sharply criticized in the EU. "The measures have quite serious consequences for the whole of Austria and are therefore in clear contradiction to the lessons learned last spring," Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Monday. The EU Commission reiterated its displeasure with the German unilateral action. France also expressed irritation. "This is a tough decision," said Europe State Secretary Clément Beaune. First, he wanted to talk to neighboring German states so that there would be no "nasty surprises." In Berlin, the spokesman for the German government did not rule out, when asked, that entries from France could also be restricted.

To slow down the entry of Corona mutations into Germany, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) hasbanned entry from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and parts of Tyrol in Italy. Exceptions apply, for example, to nursing staff and in emergencies. A regulation for commuters from system-relevant industries is still being worked on. Without a negative test and digital registration, entry from these areas is restricted for the time being.

By Monday morning alone, the Federal Police checked around 10,000 people and refused entry to all of them, the Federal Interior Ministry said. Traffic jams formed at the German-Czech border, whichat times was more than 20 kilometers long. At the border crossing to Tyrol, however, it initially remained quiet.

Ministry calls controls an "absolute exception"
"The German interior minister considers border controls in the heart of Europe to be an absolutely exceptional case," his spokesman said. When asked whether entries from France could also be banned in the near future, government spokesman Steffen Seibert responded evasively. In principle, he said, everyone agrees that tighter controls are "not the normal state of affairs" and should be "understood as the last resort" because of the threat situation.

The French government recently announced that a relatively large number of virus variants had been discovered in the Moselle department in eastern France. Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans (CDU) did not rule out border controls in a government statement on Monday. However, he said he wanted to avoid measures that had not been agreed upon, such as those in 2020.

Criticism is also coming from German business. The industry association BDI warns of serious consequences of border closures. "There is a great danger that supply chains will break down everywhere in Europe in the next few days," Chief Executive Joachim Lang told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers. "Border crossings should remain open for all freight vehicles carrying goods," he demands. To this end, "practical test facilities must be made available throughout Europe." It was no use, he said, "to demand negative tests on entry from personnel working in transportation and freight transport without providing sufficient test infrastructures at the borders."

Contrary to fears, automakers Audi, BMW and Volkswagen reported no major problems Monday because of border controls. All plants were producing as planned, BMW said. However, this could only be a snapshot. A VW spokesman reported "no restrictions." The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) had warned on Sunday of immediate plant closures due to supply bottlenecks.

Although that was not the case initially, the VDA did not give the all-clear. The situation at the borders is "already very difficult," the association said. "The necessary controls are having an impact on the transport logistics of many companies throughout Germany." The VDA called for dispensing with medically certified tests and allowing truck drivers to take self-quick tests.

Photo by Erik Mclean

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