By Wolf Achim Wiegand
Hamburg (waw) – The closure of borders within the European Union (EU), which was actually designed to be permissive, could be superfluous like a goiter. Namely, if all governments in the union of states from Portugal to Poland acted uniformly in the fight against the corona virus. Crossborder panic buying would not be worthwhile because the restriction of freedom of movement would be the same on both sides of intra-continental demarcation lines.
The example of Poland, which has sealed off its 58 crossings to neighboring countries, shows what problems the arbitrary fragmentation of the common internal market, which is based on traditional national borders, is causing: asparagus cutters are now missing in Germany. And that’s no small thing for an entire industry.
„There is uncertainty in many of the around 360 asparagus farms,“ reports „BILD“ tabloid newspaper from North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest German state. Trying it out with German workers doesn’t work. „We did not find enough who wanted to do this activity – despite payment well above the minimum wage,“ the newspaper quotes a farmer. With the upcoming asparagus season, the German farmers could not only stand on the tube in NRW.
The example of harvesting asparagus by hand as a secondary site of the corona crisis makes it clear that the borders in Europe should never again be opened and closed at will. Poland again: the day after the border was closed, long traffic jams formed at the crossings. In front of Jedrzychowice on the motorway A4 near Görlitz a waiting time of five and a half hours due to the controls were reported, says the trade magazine „Verkehrsrundschau“. In Swiecko on the A12 near Frankfurt / Oder, drivers would have had to wait four hours, as well as in Olszyna on the A15 near Cottbus.
The Czech Republic’s measures against the corona virus also hit German companies hard. „You now have to make sure that the cross-border supply chains do not collapse,“ says Bernard Bauer of the German-Czech Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DTIHK) in „Deutsche Verkehrszeitung“ (DVZ). There will be delays. In addition to the chemical and IT industries, this affects the German automotive industry in particular, because many automotive suppliers work in the Czech Republic.
Logistics service provider Kuehne + Nagel, Hamburg, states: „We are experiencing delays in delivery at various borders, particularly between Italy and its neighboring countries and at the borders with Croatia.“ Croatia is a key country in general, because it’s almost 2,000 km long Adriatic coast is an important transshipment point for Ferries on the routes to the Balkans, which are now practically isolated. The closure of the natural port of Genoa in Italy is also a cause for concern, with around 50 million tons of goods and more than three million passengers arriving every year.
To put it bluntly, I do not speak out here against rejecting the current border closures. They are important and correct in times of the coronavirus to stop the spread of the lung disease COVID-19 and to interrupt the transmission routes. However, lowering the barriers would be unnecessary if the EU member governments would transfer health policy – and not just that! – in the hands of the European Union, so that no petty hacking in national categories arises in our long since time ago globalised world. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Prime Minister of Belgium: „The establishment of this European response mechanism and ditto European Health Agency, will need to go hand-in-hand with an increase of the security of our external borders.„
The Schengen Agreement, which regulates the abolition of stationary border controls at European internal borders (including non-EU members Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), is an epochal achievement. The external borders of the Schengen zone, which covers an area of 4,312,099 km², reach a length of 50,000 km. 420 million people live in it. There are hundreds of airports and seaports.
The Schengen area with its open borders must remain a cornerstone of the further integration of Europe. „Don’t touch my Schengen!“ Freedom of movement in the EU must not be touched again! The above mentioned impending asparagus crisis illustrates how elemantar the upcoming reform of the European Union is. We urgently need more Europe, not less.