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LATEST: EU recommends reopening of French border for ‘essential’ travel from UK

The European Commission has recommended that countries reopen their borders to 'essential' traffic from the UK, which includes freight transport and French citizens and residents trying to travel home.

LATEST: EU recommends reopening of French border for 'essential' travel from UK
France has banned all travel coming in from the UK for 48 hours. Photo: AFP

The Commission's recommendation is that people heading to their country of residence should be allowed to travel, along with EU citizens heading home and essential freight traffic.

Entry for individual travellers is likely to be dependent on testing.

European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “Given the current uncertainties and in light of the precautionary principle, Member States should take coordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU.

“At the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes.

“While precautions are needed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant, with today's Recommendation, we therefore ensure that the restrictions are coordinated and provide for the necessary exemptions for citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers.”

The recommendations will be put to EU ambassadors later on Tuesday.

The Commission can only make recommendations and each EU country keeps control of decisions regarding its borders, but France has been keen for an integrated European solution so it likely to go along with the recommendations.

If adopted it would mean the following people could travel to France;

  • Hauliers bringing freight traffic
  • French nationals currently in the UK
  • Non-French nationals who are currently in the UK but have their permanent residence in France. It was unclear what evidence will be needed to prove residency.

Entry will also be dependant on a negative Covid test, although the type of testing for hauliers – thousands of whom are waiting in England – is still under discussion.

The French government had already advised its citizens in the UK to get a test in advance of the border reopening.

Only a PCR (nasal swab) test will be accepted, not the quick-result antigen test or the finger-prick antibody test, but many French nationals in the UK have reported great difficulty in sourcing a test.

France announced on Sunday night that it would be closing its borders completely for 48 hours in response to an announcement by the UK government that a highly infectious new strain of Covid-19 had been discovered.

It was one of about 40 countries around the world to announce a ban on entry from the UK, but the closure of the French border caused chaos in southern England with hundreds of lorries unable to access ports and the Channel Tunnel were stuck in long tailbacks.

Travel from France to the UK is not covered by the ban, but many operators have cancelled services.

Other countries such as Germany and Italy have already announced a travel ban running until January 6th, but France's ban was only in place until 11.59pm on Tuesday.

The French Defence Council met on Monday night and said they had suggested solutions, but wanted to work in partnership with the European Commission for a harmonised approach.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had also called French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the border issue.

 

 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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