European Commission to Call for a Return to Open Borders During Pandemic

Passengers on a flight from Paris arrive at Logan International Airport in Boston, Friday, March, 13, 2020. Beginning at midnight Friday most Europeans will be banned from entering the United States for 30 days to try to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Americans returning from Europe will be …
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The European Commission is set to present a plan in Brussels to remove border controls within the visa-free Schengen zone as well the introduction of Green New Deal-style stimulus package to promote so-called green businesses in the aftermath of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed strategy, which is set to be released on Wednesday, will see a phased opening of borders throughout the bloc, with countries that share “similar overall risk profiles” being the first to open. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will be tasked with determining which areas are of low risk, in order to lift the “blanket quarantine measures” that are currently set in place.

“As the health situation gradually improves, the balance should change towards full freedom of movement for people,”  a draft of the proposal seen by the German newspaper Handelsblatt said.

Citing the growing economic damage being done to the tourism industry, the EU Commission claimed that any delay to opening the borders “would not only put a heavy burden on the functioning of the internal market but also on the lives of millions of EU citizens who are being denied the benefits of free movement”.

In the draft proposal, non-discrimination on nationality rules will apply to the lifting of border controls, meaning that all EU citizens residing in a country will have the right of free movement when another country lifts restrictions.

The move comes less than a week after the European Commission recommended that Europe’s external borders should remain closed until mid-June as “the situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide.”

The European Commission is expected to pressure Great Britain to follow suit and allow travellers from the EU to enter the country without mandatory quarantines, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced will be the case with France.

“We would expect that the UK, in this case for instance, would apply the same kind of exemptions to arrivals from other member states, which are in a similar epidemiological situation as France,” a European Commission spokesperson told The Guardian.

The bloc will also use the opportunity of the coronavirus crisis to push forward with its green agenda, launching a “bespoke zero-pollution & nature fund” stimulus package that will subsidise eco-projects such as converting hotels to supposedly renewable energy sources, according to Euractiv.

Last month, speaking at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue virtual summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe should focus on Green New Deal projects to rebuild the economy of Europe.

“It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programmes, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection,” she said.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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