Germany is coming under fire from Austria, Czechia and Slovakia for closing its borders to their countries while keeping its border open with France.
The Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Radek Vondráček, together with his counterparts from Slovakia and Austria, urged the head of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, for Germany to end controls on borders with the Czech Republic and the Austrian federal state of Tyrol, according to the Czech News Agency.
Since Feb. 14, Germany has considered the Czech Republic, most of the Tyrol region, and Slovakia to be areas with more dangerous coronavirus variants. Germany thus decided to tighten conditions for entering the country. At the same time, it introduced permanent border controls to enforce compliance with the new rules.
Germany has also recently labeled the French department of the Moselle an area with COVID-19 variants. However, in this case, Germany did not introduce permanent border controls but only increased police surveillance in the region. It is precisely the inconsistency of the German approach that Vondráček, together with his Slovak colleague Boris Kollár and his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka, points out.
“We would like to question the comparability of these measures with those in other German border regions,” the heads of parliaments wrote. Furthermore, they noted that ongoing border controls clash with the common goal, which is to prevent negative economic impacts of the pandemic.
In recent days, the German government, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, has explained the different approaches by saying the situation is different. Berlin pointed out that the German federal states of Saxony and Bavaria directly requested controls, and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer decided to allow them. Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate, which border the French department of the Moselle, do not want such controls.
German MPs discussed renewed border controls at the end of February. The debate was sparked by the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP), which criticized the government’s actions. The European Commission also objected to the controls, but Berlin rejected all rebukes.
Permanent border controls at the borders with the Czech Republic and Tyrol will last at least until March 17. However, an extension can be expected even after this date, as the epidemiological situation is still severe, especially in the Czech Republic.
Title image: Police officers check vehicles in a parking lot shortly after the German-Czech border in Waidhaus, Germany, Tuesday, Feb.16, 2021. Germany’s tightened entry rules at the border with the Czech Republic to protect against dangerous variants of the coronavirus came into force two days ago. (Armin Weigel/dpa via AP)