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Germany eases border closures but checks remain until mid-June

Berlin has announced plans to relax border restrictions as of Saturday, but said coronavirus-related checks will remain in place until at least June 15.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters that all border crossings with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland will be reopened as of Saturday.

In the case of Luxembourg, German police will also suspend all checks as of Saturday, Seehofer said, adding that he was aiming for a similar solution at the German-Danish border, pending an agreement with Copenhagen that is currently coordinating border openings with other Scandinavian neighbors.

At border crossings with France, Switzerland and Austria, checks will remain in place until at least June 15 but will be “relaxed,” Seehofer said. “We will not carry out systematic checks as before, but rather random checks,” he added.

The minister said he had reached an agreement with the three countries that all checks on both sides of their borders will be suspended by June 15, provided that there’s no new sharp increase in coronavirus infections.

“The clear objective is that we want free travel in Europe again as of mid-June,” Seehofer said. “That presupposes that the infection situation will continue to be as favorable as we are experiencing these days,” he stressed.

“If public discipline continues to be maintained in the population, with hygiene, face masks, distancing regulations, despite the easing of restrictions … in all European countries, then we can imagine that we will have free travel again on June 15. But I ask you to take this condition into account,” he said.

Despite the loosening of checks, it’s not yet clear who will be allowed to cross borders. The current restrictions, which Berlin introduced on March 16 to stop the spread of the coronavirus, only permit limited movement of people including lorry drivers and commuters to travel into Germany.

Seehofer said that state secretaries from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France will discuss widening these exemptions in the coming days.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn welcomed the announcement, amid tension between the Grand Duchy and Berlin over the border restrictions. “This decision will not only bring concrete facilitations for citizens and businesses on both sides of the border, but is also an important signal for a gradual re-enactment of the Schengen Agreement,” he said.

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