Germany not ruling out French border checks over coronavirus

Germany said on Monday it would not rule out expanding new travel controls to its French border due to Covid-19 variants surging in the Moselle region. Paris, however, urged against border closures.

Germany not ruling out French border checks over coronavirus
A French border crossing in Breisach, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Asked about the situation in France, Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin was “continuing to monitor the situation and continually reviewing our measures to fight the pandemic”.

He added that border closures were “not normal” and a “last resort”, but said Germany was “in a situation where we need to do everything to prevent more aggressive mutations of the virus spreading as quickly in Germany as they have elsewhere”.

Seibert's comments came hours after French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune urged Germany not to close its borders with France.

“We do not want Germany to shut the border completely,” said Beaune after Berlin introduced tough checks at its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Germany imposes controls on Czech and Austrian borders

“We will do everything to avoid an uncoordinated decision and a nasty surprise,” Beaune said.

He added that any closures should be introduced in coordination with France and include as “wide-reaching exceptions as possible” in order to protect cross-border workers.

Germany partially closed its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol on Sunday over a troubling surge in coronavirus mutations, defying condemnation from the European Union.

Under the new rules, only Germans or non-German residents are allowed through.

Exceptions are made for essential workers in sectors such as health and transport, as well as for urgent humanitarian reasons, according to the German interior ministry.

Everyone must be able to provide a recent negative coronavirus test.

The checks led to long traffic jams at border crossings on Monday morning, with some drivers having to wait several hours.

A surge in cases of the South African and Brazilian variants of the coronavirus in eastern French regions such as Moselle has prompted speculation that similar checks may be introduced on the French-German border.

The European Union condemned Germany's curbs, with EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders tweeting that the European Commission was “concerned about recent unilateral decisions” on travel.

France's Beaune also bemoaned the “lack of a discussion” between Berlin and the European Commission over the checks.

Yet a spokesman for the German interior ministry insisted Monday that the German policy combined “European thinking with local needs”.

READ ALSO: How European countries have changed after a year of coronavirus crisis

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Ukraine and EVs: What Macron and Biden will discuss in Washington

French leader Emmanuel Macron is in Washington - with several of his ministers - on an official state visit, but some of his discussions with US president Joe Biden could be tricky - here's what the two will talk about.

Ukraine and EVs: What Macron and Biden will discuss in Washington

Macron is hoping his US state visit can produce meaningful concessions for European industry as it smarts from massive US green subsidies – but the chances of a major win look slim, according to a Joe Biden ally, Senator Chris Coons.

Coons, a Democratic Senator for Delaware and leader of the Congressional French Caucus, talked to AFP about the French president’s visit and goals.

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act offers generous support to US industry, such as subsidies for US-made electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energy projects, as part of a push to address climate change. Can Macron obtain exemptions for European industries to share in the huge US market, including EU-made electric cars?

Sen Coons: “I think this is an important but difficult conversation. We passed in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) the single largest investment in a clean energy transition in the history of the United States, and some would argue the largest investment by any country.”

However, Coons explained, the bill was only barely approved by Congress, and the provision on the manufacturing of electric vehicles in North America was “very important” to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote was crucial in passing it.

Still, can France make any inroads on this?

Sen Coons: “It will be a delicate negotiation; my state benefits immensely from French investments.”

Both aircraft manufacturer Dassault Falcon and industrial gas producer Air Liquide are in Delaware.

“It is our hope that we will find a path forward where we will increase technology transfer and foreign direct investment by the United States and American companies in France and by French companies in the United States.

“I’m expecting that this conversation about IRA and subsidies for electric vehicles will be on the agenda for the conversation between our two

“The war in Ukraine will also be discussed by Macron and Biden. Is the United States pushing for a negotiated end?”

Sen Coons: “No. I think it was important that President Zelensky recently indicated of course he is open to negotiating. He laid out the terms, which were the restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty and security guarantees, that strike me as reasonable. “

“If we were to pressure Zelensky into surrendering territory, I don’t see how that would either deter (President Vladimir) Putin, make Ukraine more safe or produce a stable outcome.”