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EU must not backtrack on COVID-19 border and driver commitments
Europe | Brussels

EU must not backtrack on COVID-19 border and driver commitments

3 Feb 2021 · People, Prosperity

Blocked supply chains and badly treated essential transport workers, from inside or outside the EU, will hinder Europe’s fight against the pandemic.

EU countries have agreed to tighten travel restrictions as they are facing a third wave of the pandemic with an increase in infections and more virulent strains of the virus. EU governments gathered in the European Council to adopt two recommendations on a coordinated approach to restrictions on the free movement of people and goods within the EU and transport workers coming from outside the EU. 

With EU transport workers being recognised as essential workers and not subject to testing or quarantine within the EU, IRU is concerned that the European Council is establishing a double standard for drivers arriving from third countries for whom antigen tests could be requested by EU governments. This will unnecessarily block supply chains and create bottlenecks at external EU borders, such as that between Bulgaria and Turkey. 

Green lanes principle confirmed within the EU

IRU is pleased to see that the European Council reinforced in their recommendation the key principle of the green lanes for intra-EU traffic, heeding the call in IRU’s open letter to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen. In principle, transport workers within the EU will not be required to provide negative tests before entering other EU countries or be subject to quarantine upon arrival, in order to keep supply chains moving. 

IRU urges EU governments to follow the European Council recommendation. We have already seen the chaos created in December in the UK by France requiring tests for transport workers, which blocked a key trade route. It would be disastrous to see this replicated throughout the EU.

Raluca Marian
IRU’s General Delegate to the EU. 

However, despite this recommendation from the Council, worrying situations have already been witnessed at borders between Spain and Portugal, and France and Belgium, due to a lack of dedicated lanes for trucks. As a result, trucks are getting caught in queues caused by checks for travellers, despite being exempt from the testing requirement. 

Discrimination against transport workers arriving from third countries

The Council also recommended tightening the rules for goods transport coming from countries outside the EU. Member states may require transport personnel coming from a country “where a high incidence of variants of concern of the virus is detected” to get a negative antigen test before departure. This increases uncertainty and risk as it is up to the discretion of each country.

IRU is particularly concerned that the different treatment of transport professionals arriving from third countries will lead to considerable backlogs at the EU’s external borders. 

“At the EU/Turkey border, 50% of all trucks leaving and entering EU are EU-registered. If “may” becomes reality and drivers coming from Turkey are required to show negative tests at borders, supply chains in the EU will be seriously affected,” concluded Raluca Marian. 

These recommendations from the Council on a coordinated approach to the restrictions of free movement are guidance and IRU will closely follow developments in the coming days to ensure that goods and supply chains keep flowing.