Wednesday

21st Oct 2020

Coronavirus

EU urges 15-minute fast track lanes for trucks at borders

  • Truck drivers are encouraged to respect social distancing when interacting (Photo: Martin Sanchez)

To unblock Europe's main arteries, the EU Commission on Monday urged member states to create fast lanes for trucks carrying all types of goods.

As EU countries quickly reinstalled border checks in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, long queues have formed in the past week on the internal borders of the bloc, slowing down supply chains across the continent.

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Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message that border checks had "a major impact on European transport", and "slowed down and sometime paralysed transport".

She warned that "these delays can cause shortages".

"The priority now is to make sure that the main access of our traffic in the EU are unblocked," von der Leyen said.

The EU commission wants member states to create so-called "green lanes", where crossing the borders should take no longer than 15 minutes.

Over the weekend, over 40 km-long queues have formed on various borders, von der Leyen said, with 18-hours-long waiting times. "This has to stop," she said.

Last week hours-long waiting times developed particularly on the Polish-German frontier after Warsaw's decision to shut its borders to non-Poles, and the Austrian-Hungarian border, which also closed its borders to non-Hungarians.

Land-based supply chains, particularly road, which today accounts for 75 percent of freight transport, have been "particularly severely affected" by the re-introduction of entry bans at internal borders, the EU executive said.

The commission wants countries to create a fast lane for all types of goods, not only particular types, such as medical supplies.

The commission called on member states to "designate immediately" particular border crossing points as green lanes.

"Going through these 'green lane' border crossings, including any checks and health screening of transport workers, should not exceed 15 minutes on internal land borders," the commission said.

"The 'green lane' border-crossings should be open to all freight vehicles carrying any type of goods," it added.

The EU executive also wants member states to "immediately" suspend such restrictions as weekend bans, night bans, to allow transport to flow.

The commission also tells member states to reduce paperwork, and not allow health checks at borders to hamper free movement. Health screening can be carried out before or after the internal border, the commission suggested.

The commission last week already put out guidelines for member states on border management and health checks at the borders.

The new communication on Monday comes after transport ministers last week discussed how to keep the flow of goods going while maintaining border checks in times of the pandemic.

The commission also tells EU countries that travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine of transport workers, should be waived.

"Transport workers, irrespective of their nationality and place of residence, should be allowed to cross internal borders, the commission said.

Member states should set up safe passage transit corridors to allow private drivers and their passengers, such as health and transport workers, as well as all EU citizens being repatriated, regardless of their nationality to pass.

All 27 member states have announced some sort of travel restriction due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Vast queues, as EU struggles with closed borders

Coordination among EU countries to better manage border closures amid the coronavirus outbreak is slow. So are the queues of lorries and cars waiting at some internal frontiers.

Analysis

Coronavirus: What EU can and can't do

Legal limitations means the European Commission's role when it comes to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic is broadly limited to coordination and support. It is up to member states to work together.

Von der Leyen warns 'end selfishness' in virus crisis

The EU commission president scolded EU countries that have introduced export bans, or slowed down border traffic by reinstalling controls. She told member states that the EU is at a turning point.

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