AuthorRubio, Jean; Peyrony, Jean; Viaggi, Raffaele
The European Union is a place of many countries and hence many national borders.
Between the Member States and Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Andorra,
there are close to 40 land borders. Around 150 million Europeans live in border
In recent years, work undertaken by the European Commission services has
highlighted a number of legal and administrative obstacles along many EU internal
borders. Over the past 5 years, the European Commission has unveiled evidence
to demonstrate that significant obstacles negatively affect life in border regions.
Many aspects are affected such as difficult access to employment, to healthcare,
complex access to education and training, use of different technical standards,
non-recognition of qualifications, lack of local cross-border public transport. Even
in sectors where there is a comprehensive European legal framework, obstacles
appear which can be clearly linked to the presence of a national border.
In March 2020, Europe was confronted to its most severe crisis since World War II
when it was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The infection created havoc across
Europe and many Member States took a series of far-reaching measures to fight
the pandemic. Prevention measures to contain the spreading of the virus are
unquestionably necessary.
However, these should lead neither to unjustified constraints of movements, nor
to violations of fundamental European principles, such as the four freedoms.
Sanitary measures should be taken based on their public health effectiveness, and
not based on administrative boundaries. For example, it does not make sense to
prevent citizens from circulating within one city simply because it this crossed by
a national border.
Among the measures taken by Member States, some have touched upon national
borders in a disproportionate way. Most MS closed their national borders, including
with Schengen and/or EU neighbours. The overnight closing of normally very open
borders has had serious consequences for the cross-border communities: health
care services have been affected as workers from a neighbouring town or region
could not reach their places of employment; frontier workers were prevented from
either going to work or returning home; families were split, people in care were
separated from their loved ones for long periods of time, etc. Emergency measures
taken to financially support enterprises or self-employed individuals badly affected
by loss of business have sometimes discriminated cross-border entrepreneurs.
The present document aims at drawing lessons from an assessment of the impact
of the COVID-19 measures along EU internal borders on cross-border communities
at large (businesses, workers, citizens) and presenting recommendations for the
future, addressed to the European Commission on how the resilience of cross -
border regions could be improved in case further crises emerge.
Preliminary research has consisted in mapping the measures directly linked to
borders taken by all MS and Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein border by
border, from March to end of June 2020. The immediate impact of these measures
on cross-border communities has been outlined, analysed in-depth, and illustrated
with 20 concrete illustrations. The reactions of Member States to the “Guidelines

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