“My policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!”
So said Britain’s post-war Foreign Secretary Ernie Bevin. The quote dates back to 1951, and Bevin, though not a Europhile, might well have been talking about freedom of movement across Europe, a cherished freedom currently on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Freedom of movement was already under threat because of Brexit.
Last week the UK announced that, under its new Border Operating Model, ID cards will no longer be permitted for EU nationals to enter Blighty from October 2021. Instead, passports will be required for entry.
From the UK perspective, this is only a small change – carrying ID is not compulsory in the UK, and most Brits use only their passports to travel. For EU nationals, it is another small but significant barrier to crossing the Channel.
The patchwork of national travel restrictions across the EU in response to COVID-19 now being extended again to cope with the second wave of the pandemic poses an even more existential threat to free movement.
Seven months after the first lockdowns were imposed and the borders closed, there are some signs that European leaders are getting closer to agreeing a common set of border standards.
Essentially, EU countries are on the brink of adopting a common traffic light system to coordinate travel across the bloc, with a common map of infections drawn up by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control at its heart.
It will sort European regions into green, orange and red zones according to the severity of coronavirus outbreaks, taking into account new confirmed cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive tests.
“We have to coordinate these measures, to make life easier for Europeans. The clearer the rules are, the better citizens can deal with them,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday (12 October).
The re-imposition of travel restrictions across the EU became inevitable when it became clear that Europe was seeing a second wave of rising coronavirus infections. Europe is far from immune, and far from being the only one.
Many countries have entirely closed their borders. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled that his country’s borders will remain closed until 2022.
Harmonising the rules and restrictions now is vital to getting people to travel again, and with confidence.
The ability to have a passport or ID card to travel and work is key to satisfying the ‘wanderlust’ and it lies at the heart of European integration.
EU leaders must ensure that this right is not a casualty of the pandemic and that we can still go wherever we damn please.
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EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on Belarusian President Lukashenko and move forward with a sanctions framework against the culprits involved in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Navalny.
The European Commission should not grant the UK a data adequacy agreement as part of its ongoing assessment of the country’s data protection landscape, an Irish civil rights group has said.
With youth unemployment on the rise across the EU, and aggravated further by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, EU lawmakers called upon the European Commission and member states last week to ban unpaid internships and increase their support for young people in precarious working conditions.
While French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has published his brand new national plan for maintaining law and order, Amnesty International pointed to the “illegal use of force” by French police officers during demonstrations in a recent report.
The recent Vienna election was a great victory for Social Democrats while the far-right FPÖ suffered a massive crash, losing two-thirds of support. The final result will be available Tuesday, but coalition options are already clear.
Europe’s highest court has concluded that member states have the right to ban pesticides even if they are permitted at the EU level, provided they officially inform the European Commission.
Look out for…
- General Affairs Council
- Employment, social affairs, and equality ministers videoconference
- Commissioners Schinas and Johansson speak with Secretary-General of INTERPOL
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]