Pandemic Politics: EU Prepares to Close Borders

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Just days after pressing its member-states to keep their borders open amid the coronavirus outbreak on the continent, the European Union has thought better of the idea. With the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketing since the weekend, the EU has announced plans to implement a 30-day ban on non-essential travel in the Schengen Area. Better late than never, I suppose. The travel ban is not a complete lockdown, instead designed to minimize the movement of people around Europe as much as possible. It will also include a more stringent closing of Europe’s external border for 30 days, similar to the plan the United States put in place last week.

Part of the EU’s motivation in proposing bloc-wide travel restrictions is political. A number of European nations have been implementing unilateral control restrictions to their borders. Brussels is looking to develop a more coordinated EU-directed approach to borders, and in the process bring all of the member-states in line beneath an umbrella policy. The EU response to the expanding coronavirus crisis has been criticized for being too slow, and limited in many regards.

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president has said the restrictions will last 30 days initially, and could be extended if the situation calls for it. The move has received considerable support from France, and Germany. Both nations are grappling with growing numbers of coronavirus cases right now, and Germany at least, has indicated the crisis could last for months, not weeks as originally hoped.

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