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    Cross-border family visits allowed from today

    Home affairs minister Pietr De Crem pressed for the new rule. © Belga

    People in Belgium will be allowed to make visits to family members living in neighbouring countries from Saturday, Federal Home Affairs Minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V) has announced.

    De Crem proposed the change to the consultative committee which brings together representatives of the federal and regional governments, where it was accepted.

    The new situation concerns visits to Germany, the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg, providing those countries also allow visitors from Belgium.

    There is also a change to the situation for people who live in a border area, who will now be allowed to cross the border to go shopping, on condition that the alternative shopping in Belgium would involve travelling 15 km or more.

    In general, meanwhile, the borders remain closed, with no date fixed for opening. Discussions are going on within the EU, and Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Goffin (MR) said the government hoped for an agreement with other member states by mid-June.

    Our borders are not closed, but some movements are not possible,” De Crem told VRT News. The borders remain fully open, for example, for commercial road transport.

    Now a restriction is being lifted, intra-family transfers to neighbouring countries may take place again.”

    As well as road and rail travel to Belgium’s immediate neighbours, family visits will also be permitted by Eurostar to the United Kingdom.

    The new allowance does not cover visits to friends, De Crem said.

    That emerged clearly from discussion within the government. This is about family visits. Friends will have to wait.”

    You will have to be able to prove it is a family visit and that you have a demonstrable bond,” he said, without explaining how such a bond might be shown.

    Once arrived at the relative’s home, the group may go shopping if necessary. However other outings are still not allowed, subject to the local rules in place.

    Update: Since this morning, minister De Crem has revised his comments on the rule change.

    Update: France has since stated that it will not allow Belgians to enter its territory before 15 June. Read more about it here.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times