Border controls: Berlin vs. Brussels

It was just a hint. The EU Commission dutifully pointed out to the German government that there are common rules for border controls and closures. But now this is turning into a showdown between Berlin and Brussels.

Sometimes things take an astonishing turn. On Friday, at the public “Midday Briefing”, I asked the EU Commission what it thought of the German border controls in Tyrol and the Czech Republic.

An EU spokesperson answered very diplomatically. He did not reject the German controls, but rather tamely pointed to common rules. He also called for exceptions for commuters, for example.

In my view, that is the least the Commission could have said and done. After all, the 27 EU states agreed in the summer that there should be no more closed borders despite Corona!

But even this mild reminder led to a freak-out in Berlin. “That’s enough!” outraged Federal Interior Minister Seehofer. The EU had “made enough mistakes” in the vaccine procurement and therefore had no right to give Berlin lessons.

A remarkable argument. After all, it was Germany – or more precisely Chancellor Merkel – who had commissioned the EU Commission to procure the vaccines in the summer of 2020. Berlin is therefore also partly responsible for the mistakes.

Over the weekend, Brussels fired back. “The fear of the coronavirus mutations is understandable,” said EU Health Commissioner Kyriakides. “But the truth still holds that the virus cannot be stopped by closed borders.”

Exactly. This simple lesson had been learned by all EU states from the border closures in spring 2020. But now the largest EU country wants to defy it and seal off three member states at once – Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Therefore, it is now becoming a test of strength. Health Minister Spahn has also intervened – claiming that Berlin has no choice but to close the borders. He said nothing about rapid tests, although that would be the better choice!

It is not yet possible to say how the matter will turn out. The EU Commission is biased because it is led by a German. I can imagine von der Leyen now daring to revolt against Merkel, Seehofer and Spahn.

But one lesson can already be learned: The EU Commission is in the wrong position. It has taken care of the vaccines – for which it has no mandate – instead of protecting the internal market and the Schengen Agreement, as it should.

It has neglected its duty – and taken on new tasks that it does not manage well. At least Seehofer has a point there. However, the CSU politician should complain to Merkel – because it was she who got the EU into this predicament.

It already started with the German border closures in spring 2020. Then came the export bans on medical aid. Back then, Italy, France and Luxembourg were pissed off at Germany. Now everything threatens to repeat itself…

Translated with (free version) The original post (in German) is here