Belgium considers alternatives to non-essential travel ban
Tuesday, 02 March 2021
Credit: Belga/Eric Lalmand
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo is looking into new ways to work with the country’s Regions to replace the current ban on non-essential travel.
The aim of a new agreement is to achieve “greater enforceability” of the testing and quarantine measures, so the non-essential travel ban can be phased out after 1 April, De Croo said in the Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs on Monday, reacting to the letter he received from the Commission last week.
Like several countries, the Belgian authorities received a letter stating that less restrictive measures than an all-out ban would have been possible to protect public health, and that “no reason” was given for its extension.
“Our country will point out that the measure is strictly temporary, proportional as it concerns only non-essential travel and does not discriminate between our own and EU citizens,” De Croo said. “The four freedoms are fundamental and remain inviolable for Belgium.”
He also stated that Belgium will coordinate its response to the Commission with that of the other Member States who also received a letter about their travel restrictions.
“In my view, making the quarantine and testing measures solid is crucial,” De Croo said. “For that, we need to make a new cooperation agreement, which will give us another tool to restrict non-essential travel in a different way.”
He stressed that such an agreement requires the approval of Belgium’s Regions, the same way that the travel ban also received approval. “This is not the approach of the federal government, but one that is supported by the entire Consultative Committee.”
Additionally, Belgium will point out that the temporary travel ban “is a pillar of a broader policy that, in addition to the testing and quarantine policy, also concerns internal measures and must be weighed against this” in its letter to the Commission.
“Our country is looking for a difficult balance here,” he added.
The ban was set to be reviewed at last Friday’s Consultative Committee, but the authorities decided not to make any changes to the rules yet and instead announced a “time out” of a week. This Friday, the travel ban is expected to be discussed when the authorities meet again to discuss possible changes to the measures.