EU leaders agreed yesterday to consider restricting non-essential trips across the bloc’s internal borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Brussels’ top officials said.
“All non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged both within the country and of course across borders,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.
Freight transport should continue but EU Council chief Charles Michel said, “in terms of non-essential movements restrictions should be possible to consider”.
Speaking after a video summit of all 27 EU leaders, both officials stressed that the operation of the single market and trips by essential cross-border workers must be protected.
But, asked why member states did not simply ban leisure travel, Michel confirmed “it will probably be necessary to take additional restrictive measures in order to limit non-essential travel.”
“In the next hours and days, we will work again in order to coordinate, in order to cooperate based on common sense, based on the idea that it’s important to limit the spread of the virus,” he said.
Towards a coordinated answer?
Under EU rules border security and health policy are matters for member states. While some capitals have called for tighter travel controls, Brussels wants to play a coordinating role.
Belgium Prime-Minister Alexander De Croo is calling for a ban of non-essential travel until the end of the Carnival holidays. Several countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland and Ireland have even supported the idea.
De Croo is expected to raise the issue of travel with Belgium’s federated entities in the framework of today’s Belgian Consultative Committee.