Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said that he does not believe the European Commission will ask Belgium to further justify its decision to ban non-essential travel, in the House Interior Committee on Wednesday.
"We are not closing the borders," De Croo insisted, questioned by Peter De Roover (N-VA) and Kattrin Jadin (MR), a German-speaking elected representative whose fellow citizens are particularly concerned by cross-border travel.
The Ministerial Decree, which contains the restrictive measures taken to fight the coronavirus, includes a "rather long" list of all authorised cross-border travel, the head of government noted.
Belgium had been called upon to justify its move to close borders to non-essential travel, both to and from the country, as the most recent push goes beyond the current recommendations at an EU level.
A country which goes beyond the recommendations of the European Union on health restrictions to free movement must provide “a very clear explanation on the proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory nature,” of the measures concerned, stressed European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders on Monday.
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De Croo, however, has since spoken to Reynders, and is confident that it has sufficient justification for the move. "This is not a request for additional justification. I have discussed this with Mr. Reynders: his reasoning is that the arguments we have given, especially in the press conference after the Consultative Committee, constitute a justification."
"The justification is very clear to me: before the Christmas break, we kindly but insistently asked the population not to travel. Despite our request, a number of people travelled. In the meantime, we know from tests that a fairly high proportion of these citizens have contracted a foreign mutation of the virus," he said. "As the request has not had enough effect, this constitutes a justification for further measures, and I understand that the European Commission will not ask us for further justification."
6 Essential Reasons
As it stands, Belgium has cleared 6 essential reasons for which travel is allowed. In all other cases, it is banned. In order to take advantage of these reasons, travellers must fill out a declaration of honour to prove that their border-crossing is, in fact, essential.
The template form for such a sworn statement - in which a traveller declares that their cross-border trip falls under one of the above categories – can now be downloaded and completed in English, Dutch, French and German.
The statement should be filled out in addition to the existing rules on completing the Passenger Locator Form (PLF), for people who have been abroad for at least 48 hours.
These rules will be in place until at least 1 March, De Croo announced during the Consultative Committee on Friday.
Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times