‘France on knees before EU empire!’ Frexit fury as Macron pleads with Merkel over borders

France: Florian Philippot replaces EU flag with Tricolour

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French health minister Olivier Véran and the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, will today publish a press release written in French and German, aimed at explaining the current spread of coronavirus cases in the Grand-Est. To avoid any unilateral closure that would take the inhabitants of the region by surprise, including 50,000 border residents who cross the Rhine every day to go to work, the two members of Emmanuel Macron’s government are considering an extremely rare initiative.

The text will be addressed to the populations on both sides of the border. The goal is to avoid the chaos that prevailed during the sudden closures decreed without notice by Berlin in April 2020, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the bizarre move sparked the fury of Les Patriotes leader Florian Philippot, who took the opportunity to renew his call for France to leave the European Union.

He said: “Véran will write in German to the Germans to beg them not to close their border with France.

“To promise them efforts…

“France on its knees before the Empire!

“When it comes to that level of submission, we better leave!”

Mr Beaune has stepped up discussions with the federal authorities, with the Minister President of the Land of Saarland and officials of the Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg, as well as with the President of the Grand-Est region, Jean Rottner.

He said: “This time, if such a measure were to take place, it would be done in good coordination.”

The objective would be to avoid repeated PCR tests for cross-border workers and road hauliers, to preserve their right to go to work as well as the maintenance of authorised border posts for all inhabitants, for limited journeys.

In short, a minimum of flexibility, everything except the disastrous scenario of last spring with the police forbidding all crossings, for the first time since 1995 and the entry into force of Europe without Schengen borders.

In their press release, MR Beaune and Mr Véran have also decided to focus on transparency, describing where the virus is in the region.

The Moselle deputy said: “This is enormous progress compared to last year, now people are talking to each other, from Paris to Berlin, from Moselle to the Saar, everywhere.”

Germany’s decision to impose crossing restrictions with the Czech Republic and the Austrian province of Tyrol forced the European Commission to warn EU leaders over the implications of travel restrictions undermining the principle of freedom of movement.

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Germany said on Monday its decision to impose border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria was a temporary measure of last resort as it defended a lockdown extension against business demands for a roadmap to reopening.

The new restrictions were prompted by alarm over outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region of strains of the coronavirus that spread faster and cause more illness.

Germany installed border checks on Sunday, drawing protest from Austria and concerns about supply-chain disruptions that could damage the country’s export-oriented manufacturing sector.

Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, told a news conference: “We have a situation in which we had to take all the necessary steps to prevent the virus variants…spreading as quickly in Germany as they are doing unfortunately in neighbouring countries.

“A return to normal is in the interest of everyone involved.”

Austria has said the border controls are “disproportionate” and “unacceptable” and invited the German ambassador to the foreign ministry in Vienna to discuss the situation.

European Commissioners Didier Reynders and Ylva Johansson sent a letter to European Union leaders on Tuesday pointing out “various divergences” among EU countries in how leaders are applying guidance on travel restrictions within the EU.

One EU official told Politico the Commission was “somewhat conflicted” on the issue as the bloc continues to battle its second wave of coronavirus infections.

They said: “Now, we’ve been confronted with an unprecedented situation with COVID and we all came to the realisation that there will have to be certain restrictions.”

Belgium’s ban on non-essential travel was also a concern for the two Commissioners, but Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo reassured the Brussels chiefs the ban would be reviewed at the end of February and was aimed at restricting travel during the carnival holidays.

Under EU law, member states are allowed to reintroduce border checks in case of “threat to public policy or internal security”.

However, measures should always be temporary and the European Commission must be notified ahead of implementation.

A Commission spokesman said on Monday they “expect all member states to follow the coordinated approach” on travel.

Such an approach is however non-binding and only to be taken as recommendations on border restrictions.

Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Finland, Spain, the Czech Republic and Norway (which is not in the EU but is a part of the Schengen area) have also introduced border measures due to COVID.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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