De Croo uses English to urge internationals not to cross the border
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De Croo uses English to urge internationals not to cross the border

Credit: screengrab/cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s latest appeal to internationals outside not to cross the border without good reason has come with an unexpected twist after it was delivered in English, not his native language of Dutch, or French.

In an uncharacteristic move, De Croo addressed viewers in English – not an official language in Belgium – while his colleagues, Dutch Minister-President Mark Rutte and Minister-President of the German state North-Rhine Westphalia Armin Laschet, spoke in their respective native tongues.

De Croo, Rutte and Laschet stressed that Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are “the best of neighbours,” and that while their citizens like to visit each other in normal times, this is not an option now.

“In these tough times, we should stand in solidarity. Unfortunately, this means staying in one’s home country,” De Croo said.

“Abiding by the rules. Only crossing the border for essential travel, not for fun. Not to shop with friends and family, this is the only way to beat the virus,” he added.

“The better we follow these rules, the sooner we can meet again. Let’s support each other by staying at home,” De Croo said, before adding “blijf thuis” (Dutch), “restez chez soi” (French) and “bleib zu Hause” (German).

“Today, solidarity with our neighbours and friends means one thing above all: self-restraint,” said Laschet of North-Rhine Westphalia in German, explicitly calling on people not to go to Belgium to shop.

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Dutch Minister-President Rutte stressed that people who cross the border could carry the virus with them, and stressed that only essential journeys are allowed.

“As good neighbours, we must show solidarity in times of corona (sic),” he said in Dutch. “And in this case, unfortunately, that means staying at home as much as possible.”

Even though the number of infections is on the rise again, and the Netherlands and Germany have both implemented strict lockdown measures this week, their borders with Belgium remain open.

Belgium, which did close its borders during the first wave this spring, is now preparing a flyer campaign in the border area, and the Belgian police will also carry out more thorough checks.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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