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Belgium will not open borders to cross-border couples

Credit: Pexels/Valentin Antonucci

Despite the urging of an MEP and the #LoveIsNotTourism campaign on social media, Belgium is still keeping its borders closed to couples living in different countries.

The possibility to allow partners who have been separated by the border closures and travel restrictions to see each other again was brought up at Wednesday’s National Security Council by Interior Minister Pieter De Crem, but no solution was found.

“I am angry and frustrated that there still is a lack of urgency and understanding on the side of our government,” Hannah Maes (25) told The Brussels Times. Maes has not seen her American girlfriend, who lives in New York, since January.

“Everyone agrees that this is an important subject, and it also concerns a relatively small number [of people]. But the devil is in the details: where do you draw the line, how do you prove you are in love, how do you prevent abuse?” virologist Marc Van Ranst told De Standaard.

While non-essential travel within the EU has been possible again since 15 June, Belgium’s borders remain closed for people living outside the Schengen area 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.

Maes refers to Denmark and Austria, two countries which have adopted rules to allow couples to see each other.

Partners could be allowed to see each other again under certain conditions: they need to be in a lasting relationship, they must have seen each other in real life before, they need to present a negative coronavirus test that is no more than 72 hours old, and they have to quarantine for two weeks.

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“My girlfriend would be happy to provide pictures, previous flight tickets, a signed scan of my passport, copies of the newspaper articles written about us, and/or written statements by friends and family at the border,” Maes said.

Additionally, mandatory testing and quarantine, like for travellers who return from “red travel zones” within the EU, would also be possible, according to Maes. “We’d be more than happy to follow these rules. Just let us reunite with our loved ones,” she added.

In early July, MEP Moritz Körner already urged Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès to find a solution for these people, but nothing has changed yet.

The issue, according to Van Ranst, is casting the situation in a conclusive ministerial decree. “I am an incurable romantic, like most virologists, so I will keep drawing attention to this, but it is up to politicians to make this possible in practice,” he added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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