ROUNDUP 2 / Scholz ‘first EU summit: Travel could get more complicated
Olaf Scholz (SPD). pixabay.com
(new: more details, updated.)
BRUSSELS (dpa-AFX) – Traveling in Europe could become more complicated in view of the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. An EU summit in Brussels did not rule out further requirements by the member states such as compulsory testing for vaccinated people on Thursday. It was simply agreed that restrictions should not undermine the functioning of the internal market and should not “disproportionately” impede freedom of movement within and into the EU.
“Further coordinated efforts” are necessary in order to react on the basis of scientific data, it said in the final declaration. Basically, travel regulations are in the competence of the individual EU states.
The one-day meeting in Brussels was the first EU summit of the new Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). Several heads of state and government expressed their disapproval with a view to additional testing requirements for vaccinated persons. But countries like Italy have long since pushed ahead. A regular patchwork quilt threatens again.
The flagship project Corona Certificate, which has made traveling in the EU much easier as proof of recovery, a test or a vaccination, could lose its status. The summit declaration said that a coordinated approach should be taken with a view to the validity of the certificates. The EU Commission should present a proposal as soon as possible.
The omicron variant is spreading quickly. According to the EU health authority ECDC, it should dominate as early as January or February. Italy is therefore already demanding a negative corona test from all travelers – including those who have been vaccinated – from other EU countries. Ireland and Greece have also introduced new testing requirements. Germany has not yet changed its rules.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo emphasized that he saw the solution in booster vaccinations. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made a similar statement. New measures should only apply for the Christmas season in order to gain enough time for booster vaccinations. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said travel restrictions were not the right answer. “For me it is very important that we keep the vaccination certificate.” It is crucial for him that a PCR test is not a substitute for a vaccination.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also promoted vaccination. There is currently a huge gap between the vaccination quotas in the EU countries. In nine EU countries it is below 60 percent. In Germany, 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. “Vaccination and boosting is the best protection available right now.”
Chancellor Scholz initially did not comment in detail on the Corona crisis. However, he went into the murder sentence in the so-called Tiergarten Murder Trial. He defended the factual expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Germany. The judge’s verdict from the previous day was “clear information that bad things have happened here, and it is therefore absolutely correct that the Foreign Minister responded with a clear answer”.
The Berlin Court of Appeal had imposed life imprisonment for the shooting of a Georgian in August 2019 in the Kleiner Tiergarten park in Berlin. The verdict speaks of “state terrorism”: The judges are convinced that the now 56-year-old perpetrator acted on behalf of Russian state agencies. Russia rejects all such allegations. As a consequence, the Foreign Office declared two diplomats from the Russian embassy in Berlin to be “undesirable persons”.
In view of the Russian troop deployment on the Ukrainian border, Scholz emphasized again that the inviolability of the borders “is one of the most important foundations of peace in Europe”. One will “do everything to ensure that this invulnerability actually remains”.
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda warned in drastic words that the situation was probably the most dangerous in 30 years. Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said that in the event of aggression from Moscow, the suspension of the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should be “on the table”. Bettel, on the other hand, spoke out in favor of a dialogue with Moscow.
The heads of state and government wanted to send a clear message to Russia at their meeting. The draft final declaration stated that the country urgently needed to defuse tensions. Any further military aggression against Ukraine would have “massive consequences and high costs” ./wim/DP/men
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