Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn (right) and his German counterpart Heiko Maas on a riverside bench in Schengen, 16 May 2020. Germany, on the opposite bank of the Moselle river, on Saturday reopened its border with the grand duchy.
Photo: SIP / Jean-Christophe Verhaegen
The Luxembourg and German foreign ministers held talks in Schengen as border controls between the two countries were lifted again on Saturday.
Foreign minister Jean Asselborn (LSAP) said on Saturday that the lifting of border controls by the Germans showed that the Schengen agreement, which guarantees open borders between its signatories, was not defeated by the coronavirus pandemic. Germany had imposed a closure of its borders on 20 March--a decision that was criticized by Asselborn and that required special arrangements to allow essential health care workers from Germany to travel to work in the grand duchy.
But Asselborn was in more magnanimous mood on Saturday when he sat down with his German counterpart Heiko Maas and said that he welcomed the lifting of restrictions. “This decision is also an important signal for the gradual restoration of the Schengen area. This should now be one of the EU’s main priorities,” he said. “Opening the borders will make everyday life easier for many people," added Asselborn.
The talks between the two ministers also focused on preparations for the German presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of the year, according to a government press statement.
But Luxembourg’s other neighbours, France and Belgium, still have strict border controls in place. Asselborn was reported to have said that Luxembourgers would “very likely” be able to go shopping in Belgium again as of next week, but in its official notification to the EU, it may continue to have some restrictions in place at frontiers until 8 June.
France is looking even further ahead and has notified that it might not fully opens its borders again until 31 October. On Saturday French minister of the interior Christophe Castaner said that unilateral decisions by Spain and Italy to reopen their borders to tourists--the latter on 3 June--did not help the case that EU countries should coordinate the reopening of borders in a spirit of “solidarity”.