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EU on brink as members threaten to dismantle key foundation of union amid COVID-19 crisis

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The European Union has expressed concerns about potential discrimination of EU citizens after some member states shut down their borders barring entrance to foreign nationals amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Some EU27 have reintroduced travel restrictions after a surge of COVID-19 cases but the move sparked fears a key tenet of the union could now be under threat. Euronews Political Editor Darren McCaffrey said: “The closure of borders may seem a practical way of controlling the virus and there is little doubt that it can help.

“But politically, this is unsettling for a union built on the free movement of people.

“As national governments again decide to act in the national interest, it not only undermines Schengen but calls into question the fundamentals of what it means to be a EU citizen.”

He continued: “Hungary, from Tuesday, has again banned entry to all foreign nationals.

“Denmark is limiting entry for non-Danish nationals based on infection rates, and Finland has reintroduced control for several EU countries just as Spain and France.

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“There is also concern about the lack of EU coordination when it comes to who needs to be tested and has to quarantine, and how long for, with different rules in different member states.”

Sergio Carrera from the Centre for European Policy Studies noted member states have the ability to impose border checks but have to do so based on the strict Schengen Area guidelines.

Mr Carrera said: “There are other member states which are not complying with the obligation not to discriminate EU citizens and their families who have the right to move and to reside in other countries, or third-country nationals who also have the right to that intra EU mobility.

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While European Union regulation recognises member states’ needs to introduce border controls, as have many EU27 due to terror-related threats, the Commission criticised “blanket restrictions” imposed in recent days.

Spokeswoman Vivian Loonela said: “There is the need to replace blanket restrictions to free movement by more targeted measures which are limited in time or in geographical scope, meaning, for example, that you apply restrictions to visitors from specific areas only.”

Dutch MEP Sophie in’ t Veld suggested the border controls were part of a strategy from Hungarian President Viktor Orban, who has long been at odds with Brussles.

She said: “Maybe the border closure is just another provocation of the EU. Maybe Mr Orban should consider if he wants to be a member of the EU. If you are a member of a team, you play by the rules.”



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