According to a letter of complaint from the EU Commission to the German EU ambassador Michael Clauss in Brussels, several requirements are disproportionate or unfounded. “We believe that Germany’s understandable goal – the protection of public health in a pandemic – could be achieved through less restrictive measures.”
The paper from Monday was available to the German Press Agency. The EU Commission now expects a response within ten working days. In theory, it could initiate legal proceedings against Germany, but this is unlikely due to the ongoing pandemic. Similar letters were sent to Belgium, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, with whose border measures the EU Commission also does not agree. At the urging of the EU Commission, the European Ministers of the EU states are discussing the procedure at internal borders this Tuesday.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Tyrol have been considered areas with particularly dangerous virus mutations in Germany since February 14. With a few exceptions, entry is therefore prohibited. From the point of view of Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the border controls initially scheduled for ten days should be extended. The CSU politician recently brusquely rejected the EU Commission’s criticism of the German measures. The basis of the concerns from Brussels is that the EU states agreed on common recommendations for traveling within the EU a few weeks ago. These are based on a map of Europe, on which regions are marked in color using common criteria.
In the four-page letter, the EU Commission now lists in detail which measures it considers to be inappropriate. The authority first emphasizes that according to the EU health authority ECDC, only a few cases of the British virus variant have been discovered in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In several other EU countries, the value is higher. Therefore, further information is requested on what basis the Czech Republic and Slovakia were declared virus variant areas.
The EU Commission is also dissatisfied with the exceptions that apply to the entry ban. There is no exception for families living across borders. In addition, it seems that members of the EU parliament or members of the government are not allowed to cross Germany to take part in EU meetings.
The EU Commission also considers the requirements for truck drivers to be questionable. They would also have to submit a 48-hour-old corona test, if they had only crossed the variant areas. The recommendations of the EU states, on the other hand, stipulate that transport workers generally do not have to take a test – and if they do, it should be a quick test. If this leads to disabilities at the borders, this rule should be lifted. It is suggested that Germany and the neighboring countries build sufficient test infrastructure to quickly test the transport workers.
The EU Commission sees further inconsistencies in the German rules: For example, the 48-hour rule makes it possible to be tested in Poland, Italy or Slovenia, then to cross a virus variant area and then to enter Germany. In addition, the positive rate among transport workers is very low. In addition, the authority is calling on Germany to accept corona tests in Czech and Slovak – and not just in German, English, French and Italian.
In principle, the EU Commission makes it clear that restrictions on freedom of movement for reasons of public health could be justified. However, such measures must be non-discriminatory and proportionate. We invite Germany to coordinate more closely with the recommendations of the EU states – especially with regard to exceptions for transport workers and cross-border commuters.
German travel ban against the EU?
European law expert Walter Obwexer from the University of Innsbruck considers the travel ban imposed by Germany for private travelers from Tyrol via the Small and Large German Corner to be contrary to the EU. “The entry ban is undoubtedly not proportionate when it comes to simply passing through,” Obwexer told the “Tiroler Tageszeitung” (Tuesday edition).
“In these cases, people passing through from Tyrol do not pose a health risk in Germany because they are only allowed to pass through, but are not allowed to stay in Germany,” continues Obwexer. Entry and exit could be controlled. In any case, the administrative burden involved is no justification for restricting fundamental freedoms, said the European law expert.
Obwexer hoped that the EU would still be active – if necessary, also through the lawsuit. “Even if a judgment should come too late, it would provide an important legal clarification of the room for maneuver the member states have in such a pandemic situation,” said Obwexer.
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