Belgium urged to lift travel restrictions for cross-borders couples

Belgium urged to lift travel restrictions for cross-borders couples
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Member of the European Parliament Moritz Körner has urged Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès to introduce measures allowing couples in different countries to see each other, despite the travel restrictions.

Many couples in long-distance relationships who have been separated for months because of the closed borders have been calling attention to their situation, using the hashtags #LoveIsNotTourism and #LoveIsEssential on social media.

"[Partners] are not allowed to be together in these times because their loved ones do not have EU citizenship and no official marital status," Körner wrote in a letter to Wilmès.

"In times when they are most needed, couples cannot be there for each other because most Member States prevent them from entering the European Union. This has to end," he added.

Since 15 June, travelling from Belgium to most countries in the EU, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway has been possible again, but non-essential travel outside these countries is still prohibited for the time being.

Partners who are not married and have different nationalities cannot travel to see each other, as their journeys would not be considered essential.

Hannah Maes, a Belgian woman with an American girlfriend living in New York, has last seen her in January.

"What I am having a hard time with right now is that all discussions about borders are about tourism. But this is not about tourism, this is about love. This is not a touristic visit," Maes told VRT.

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"I find it hard to hear that people are allowed to travel very easily on their own. I do not want to travel. I just want to be able to drink my coffee with my girlfriend in the morning," she added.

The Twitter campaign has also received support from European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. "I want to directly address and support the very committed and vocal #LoveIsEssential campaign," she tweeted.

"I urge Member State authorities and indeed travel companies to apply as wide a definition of partnerships as possible," she added.

Denmark has introduced measures that allow partners, fiancés and other family members to enter the country, even when coming from a place from where travel is otherwise restricted.

Danish citizens can have their foreign partner visit them by means of a sworn statement.

The existing measures will remain in force until at least 7 July. Next week, the Belgian government will further consider the list of countries and travel advice.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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