EU marks 25 years of open-border pact amid closure

Danish police officers check vehicles at the border town of Padborg, Denmark, Jan. 4, 2016. (REUTERS Photo)

The European Union on Thursday marked 25 years of its open-border Schengen agreement amid closure of borders in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, European states decided to temporarily reintroduce controls at borders with other Schengen countries over the past few weeks.

Some countries even banned all foreign nationals-including other EU citizens-to enter their territory.

Only Italy, Slovakia, Latvia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta and Greece haven't introduced any restrictions related to their Schengen borders, according to the European Commission's registry.

However, it is only a formality as all of their neighbors do so, except for Greece which doesn't have a land border with any other Schengen countries.

Trucks carrying food and medical supplies, as well as foreign workers wishing to return home due to the pandemic have been stopped for up to 24 hours at borders across Europe.

Marking the 25th anniversary, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called for opening the borders.

"We need solidarity more than ever. The rules of the Schengen area provide the framework for cooperation that will allow us to face together the incredible challenge posed by this pandemic," Asselborn said in a statement.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called these restrictions "a nonsense" in her speech given at the European Parliament on Thursday.

"Crisis can't be resolved by putting barriers," she said pointing out that "free movement of goods and asset is the only chance to avoid shortages."

The Schengen Agreement is named after the Luxembourg town where it was signed in 1985.

The pact abolishing borders between EU member states only entered into force 10 years later, on 26 March 1995.

Currently, 22 EU states take part in the cooperation, as well as the non-EU members Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and Iceland.

The European Commission has recently issued several guidelines on border management and creating priority green lanes for trucks carrying food and medical supplies.

However, these recommendations are non-binding as member states have the right to impose temporary border controls in case of emergency threatening public order or public health.

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