De Croo confirms he will propose EU-wide non-essential travel ban
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De Croo confirms he will propose EU-wide non-essential travel ban

Credit: Belga

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has confirmed that he will propose an EU-wide ban on non-essential travel at the European summit today, in an effort to find a harmonised approach across the bloc.

As the European leaders will discuss a joint approach to handle the coronavirus pandemic again today, De Croo confirmed that he will plead for a “European solution” to restrict travel.

“I am going to ask to find a European solution that involves temporarily putting a targeted stop to non-essential travel,” he said, referring to the spring break period (15 to 21 February) in particular.

Over the past few days, the Belgian PM has been in contact with several European colleagues as well as Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, to see if there was support for such a ban.

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“I want to be very clear about what we advocating: we are not asking to close borders,” De Croo said. “Trade must be able to take place, border workers who work in another country must be able to do so, and we must ensure that the Schengen area continues to function.”

“In recent months, we have seen that we have asked people very politely not to travel, and we have asked them urgently not to travel, but 160,000 people still left on holiday around Christmas,” De Croo said.

“We must put a stop to tourist and leisure travel,” he said. “When you travel, you often bring the virus with you in your suitcase, and we need to be able to at least temporarily shut that down.”

On Tuesday 19 January, the European Commission already called on Member States to fully implement its recommendation to “strongly discourage” non-essential travel until the epidemiological situation has considerably improved.

Following the outcome of the EU summit today, the Consultative Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss possible travel restrictions specifically for Belgium.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times