Closed schools, closed borders, closed shops: At the beginning of the corona crisis, the EU member states imposed restrictive measures almost every hour, without asking any major questions. Now that the first Member States are beginning to lift these bans again, things are going to be a bit more orderly, according to Ursula von der Leyen: “Good neighbors are talking to each other,” said the European Commission President at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
Together with the President of the Council, Charles Michel, she presented a “road map” on which the Member States can follow if they want to remove the restrictions. In principle, the plan provides for a gradual relaxation of the restrictions if three conditions are met in the Member States: the spread of the virus must have decreased and been stable over a longer period; the further spread must be controlled closely, and the health system in the respective country had to be able to provide not only the corona patients but also other patients with adequate care.
Von der Leyen made it clear that there was no universal timetable for the lifting of the measures, but that each Member State had to carefully consider which restrictions could be withdrawn and when. “This plan is also not a signal that the restrictions can be lifted immediately,” said von der Leyen. The point is rather to show the Member States a framework for action. Fearing that the initiative could be seen as a possibly premature sign of a new departure, the EU Commission had postponed the exit strategy presentation that was planned for last week to this Wednesday.
Shopping across the border is hardly possible anyway
If the member states now begin to step down the restrictions step by step, it is “extremely important that the member states inform the EU Commission and the neighboring states”, for example before opening their shops again. Otherwise, there are fears that people would drive back and forth across the borders to use the shopping facilities on the other side.
In many places, however, this would not be possible at all: A large part of the member states have so far adhered to border controls for travelers. The situation has only eased somewhat for goods traffic and cross-border commuters in important professions. According to the exit strategy now presented, once the health situation on both sides of the border has adjusted, Member States should lift controls at internal borders and people should accept the rules of physical distance. Von der Leyen did not give much hope that this could happen soon: “We all know that if we do not follow this path very consistently and very carefully, a strong flare-up of the virus could force us to reintroduce measures that we have just fixed. ” In the long run, however, “of course all border controls should have disappeared”.
According to the road map, voluntary apps could also help to achieve this goal, but they should meet the requirements of European data protection. The use of a “pan-European reference app or at least those apps that can communicate with each other” could be more effective. The use of protective masks can also help to limit the spread of the virus. Von der Leyen pointed out two principles: If the offer is not enough for everyone, employees from the health sector should first be provided with masks. At the same time, respiratory masks “could never be a substitute for observing other hygiene measures”.
The EU heads of government will have a video conference next week to look at the Commission’s proposal.