EU urges members to allow freight despite virus controls

Trucks stuck in a traffic at the Polish-Czech Republic border in Gorzyczki, southern Poland, 16 March 2020. The Polish government has announced the closure of all Polish borders for foreigners. [Andrzej Grygiel/EPA/EFE]

The European Union urged member states Monday (16 March) to prevent bottlenecks forming at internal frontiers and to allow freight through despite reinforced health controls during the coronavirus outbreak.

Several EU member states have either closed borders with other members or imposed new health screening controls, leading to fears in Brussels that efforts to coordinate a response could fail.

On Monday, the European Commission issued new guidelines urging member states to ensure continued free movement of transport workers and supplies of food and medical supplies.

One idea being mooted is a separate lane for freight transport at road borders where health screening is holding up general traffic.

“Our measures to contain the Coronavirus outbreak will be effective only if we coordinate on the European level,” the president of the commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.

“We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens,” she acknowledged.

“But let’s make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market. This is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food,” she added.

“It’s not only an economic issue: our single market is a key instrument of European solidarity. I am in discussion with all member states so that we confront this challenge together, as a union.”

The EU was expected to make an announcement later in the day on measures at its external borders, and all 27 member state leaders have been invited to take part in a crisis videoconference on Tuesday.

Subscribe to our newsletters