This week, the European Commission published guidelines for Member States on health-related border control measures in the event of a COVID-19 emergency. The aim is to protect the health of citizens, to ensure proper treatment of passengers and to have access to essential goods and services in our internal market.
The guidelines list the recommendations under five points: 1) Transport of goods and services – they should be allowed as well as cross-border movement of transport workers 2) Supply chains – Member States should maintain free movement of all goods 3) Citizens’ health measures – Member States must provide appropriate care for the patients, passengers coming from risk areas should be screened, and passengers coming from the risk areas should not be allowed to travel across borders 4) EU external borders – all travelers coming from outside the EU should be screened for the coronavirus and Member States have the right to refuse their entry 5) Member States’ own borders – Member States can set temporary border controls, as well as oblige travelers to quarantine.
The guidelines came after the Member States had already started to close their borders on their own, without even informing the Commission in advance. The strong request made by the Commission to the Member States is now that borders are kept open for the transport of goods and that crossings for transport workers should not be made more difficult. The day after the guidelines, the Commission also announced that the EU would close its external borders to travelers for at least for a month. It sought to curb the unilateral closure of Member States’ borders. Imports from outside the EU are still allowed.
The introduction of controls at the EU’s internal borders has raised concerns about the free movement of goods and people, two of the “four freedoms of the EU”, which are so important to the economic success of our internal market.
It is inevitable that people’s movements will be monitored and restricted during these exceptional times, and it is equally important that goods can continue to flow across the borders and keep businesses running as smoothly as possible. Different industry sectors, land-, air- and maritime transport sectors and ports have announced that they will do everything in their power to ensure that they continue to operate smoothly.
Member States should not close their borders to the transport of goods. Trade in the internal market must be safeguarded for the benefit of both our people and businesses.