Brussels (dpa) – In the fight against the corona pandemic, the 27 EU countries want to further limit unnecessary travel. However, European borders must remain open to goods and commuters as much as possible.
This was reported by President Charles Michel of the EU Council after a video summit of the EU. The dreaded new virus variants should be identified more specifically and the vaccination campaign should get off to a better start. There should be an EU vaccination certificate, but no benefits for vaccinated people initially, for example when traveling.
Michel said Member States were very concerned about the new, more contagious virus variants. Therefore the restrictions should be maintained and in some cases tightened. However, borders must remain open for the internal market to function, Michel added.
EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen explained that a new category “dark red zones” should be created, where the corona virus is very common. People wishing to travel from these zones may need to undergo a test before departure and be quarantined upon arrival. Unnecessary travel should be strongly discouraged, added von der Leyen.
As for vaccinations, which have been slow to get underway in the EU, Michel said heads of state or government wanted to speed up. However, the principle must remain that vaccines are distributed in the EU at the same time and according to population size.
Before the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel had campaigned for closer cooperation with EU countries, but had not completely ruled out controls at Germany’s borders. “If a country with an incidence maybe twice as high as Germany opens all stores while they are still closed in our country, then of course you have a problem,” she said in Berlin.
In fact, there is free movement in the Schengen area, which includes 26 European countries, without stationary border controls. However, at the start of the pandemic, a number of countries had closed borders or initiated controls, in some cases uncoordinated. Traffic was stuck for tens of kilometers on the German border with Poland. Perishable goods did not reach their destination and border residents had problems getting to work.
The European Commission absolutely wants to prevent a repetition. However, some countries are already controlling their borders, including Hungary, Austria and Denmark. And now, the coronavirus mutations discovered in Britain and South Africa are sparking new fears because they may be more contagious than previous variants.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has strongly rejected border controls or closures within the EU. For example, if commuters could no longer come to Luxembourg, the health system there would collapse, he warned on Deutschlandfunk. Germany urges commuters to get tested more often. Merkel said they are also in talks with countries of origin.
In many EU countries, there is still rumble when it comes to vaccination. At the video summit, there were many questions about transparency and delivery schedules for the different vaccines, an EU representative reported. Because the companies Biontech and Pfizer can deliver less vaccine than planned in the short term, some vaccination agreements have been canceled in Germany.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter that on the video summit everyone agreed that vaccines should be delivered as soon as possible. He expects Astrazeneca’s vaccine to be approved by next week at the latest.
The European Commission also expects new vaccines and larger quantities soon and urges the 27 states to set ambitious goals. By the summer, 70 percent of adults in the EU would have been vaccinated against the virus, and by March 80 percent of the over-80s and nurses and health workers. Merkel was careful. The Chancellor only confirmed that everyone in Germany wanted a vaccination offer by the end of the summer – that is, by September 21.