Border checks: Germany battening down the hatches again

Germany partially closed its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic on the weekend due to concerns about the spread of new coronavirus variants. Only people working in Germany or visiting close relatives are allowed to cross the border, and they must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test and self-quarantine once they are in the country. While some commentators criticise the tone of the debate, others stress the need for regional measures.

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Kurier (AT) /

Demonstrations of power are not a strategy

Kurier sees the border checks as just sabre-rattling by the Bavarian premier:

“The damage will be easy and quick to measure. The benefits less so. Because in the meantime it is also becoming clear in Germany that these border closures will not be able to stop the spread of the South African mutation of the coronavirus. But Söder was determined to send a signal directed at 'Ischgl'-Tyrol. Perhaps provoked by the snotty, partly unprofessional statements from Tyrol about the South Africa virus. Yet it must be clear to both sides that the answer to the coronavirus pandemic is not demonstrations of power, but prudent strategies. And in this case there is no sign of them.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

So fond of playing the victim

The Kleine Zeitung says Austria's indignant reaction is hypocritical:

“This is something we have seen again and again in this country: it just loves to feel like the victim. ... There's talk of 'excessive' measures and even harassment by our neighbours. The German and Italian ambassadors are summoned to the foreign ministry, and the interior minister furiously claims that it's 'a provocation' to point the finger at Tyrol. The fact that the government in Vienna originally wanted to seal off the mutation-ridden state from the rest of the Republic but failed miserably because of resistance from Innsbruck is completely ignored, as is the fact that the egoistic self-centredness of which the unyielding Tyroleans were accused has now apparently become the yardstick for the government's own indignation.”

Jydske Vestkysten (DK) /

Isolate local hotspots

In Denmark, the areas worst affected by coronavirus are located near the capital. These should be closed off so that the rest of the country can be re-opened, Jydske Vestkysten demands:

“Our oh-so politically correct neighbours to the south have used the same technique. Last year, the authorities literally set up an iron ring around a residential area in Göttingen in Lower Saxony which was badly affected by the contagion. ... Disgruntled residents attacked the police with fireworks and iron bars. Fortunately, the authorities were able to get both the attacks and the infections under control. We should learn from Germany's mistakes and convince the residents in this area that a tough approach is necessary. The idea itself is excellent. In this way the majority can regain their freedom.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Berlin and Brussels have failed

The border closings are a clear violation of EU agreements, the taz fumes:

“They're now the cause of virulent protests in Vienna, Prague and even Paris. France also fears German controls. This row shows that the European Union has not drawn the right conclusions from the crisis. 'Never again' was the motto after the border closings in 2020. Now, however, we're unable to implement this lesson. This is not only due to the lack of political will in Berlin and Brussels, but also to a lack of technical means such as tracking apps and rapid coronavirus tests. ... Both were promised months ago, but nothing happened. Here, too, Germany and the EU have failed.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Austrians feeling sorry for themselves

Die Presse sees criticism of the checks as justified, but not the snivelling tone to be heard from Austria:

“From Vienna to Innsbruck, some are saying that the German border measures were plucked out of thin air. That is nothing short of a psycho-acrobatic process of repression. ... The reason why Germans have now introduced border checks isn't because they're out to harass the poor Tyroleans but because Tyrol is a European hot spot for the more contagious South African virus variant. ... Our neighbours have not forgotten Ischgl. ... The Tyrolean ostrich tactic regarding the South African variant has retriggered these traumas. ... What's more, Austria had no qualms about closing its borders with Italy or the Czech Republic.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

A threat to the German economy

Germany is damaging its own interests with the move, Gazeta Wyborcza comments:

“The state of emergency in the Czech Republic was extended by another 14 days on Monday, and residents of several districts where the rate of infection is increasing particularly rapidly have been prohibited from leaving these areas. Perhaps that's why the Czechs accepted the new border restrictions without protest. Nevertheless, representatives of business organisations warn that Czech workers - including 24,000 Czechs in Bavaria alone - could quit their jobs and seek work elsewhere. The German economy has been suffering from labour shortages for years, and the loss of Czech workers could do further damage.”