EU Recommends Member-States Halt UK travel Bans

The European Commission, executive branch of the European Union, is suggesting that EU member-states lift the travel bans many have recently put into effect against the United Kingdom. The EC recommendation is for member-states to allow people to travel to their country of residence providing they take a Covid-19 test or self-isolate. But it said non-essential travel should be discouraged. This development comes days after a new variant of the COVID-19 virus was discovered in the UK, which spurred a number of nations in Europe and around the world to impose travel bans on the UK. Now, with the Christmas season in full swing, and Brexit deal negotiations approaching the eleventh hour, the EC believes some EU members might’ve jumped the gun with their actions.

Despite the EC’s strong recommendation, it has little power to enforce or lighten border controls. EU member-states have the freedom to set their own rules on border controls and policies. Nearly every EU member is now banning travel to and from the UK. EU ambassadors are presently attempting to build an EU policy on travel links to and from Great Britain.

The EC is also recommending that transport personnel in Europe such as truck drivers should be exempt from travel restrictions. Commerce between the UK and the continent is also on hold for the moment as France and Britain try to reach a deal on reopening French ports to trade. Their present closure is creating a major backup of trucks loaded with goods at Dover, Calais and other ports on either side of the English Channel. The EC’s position is that cargo should be permitted to flow across borders uninterrupted. There are now over 3,000 trucks waiting on roadways in southeast England for a resolution.

The new variant of the COVID-19 virus remains largely a mystery. It is not believed to be deadlier than previous strains, however, virologists suspect it to be 70% more contagious. In any event, efforts to contain new variant cases to the UK could be in vain. As of this afternoon new variant cases have also cropped up in Denmark and also spread to Italy and the Netherlands as well.  

EU Election Aftermath: Spain Seizes an Opportunity?

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Spain has come out as a major winner in the EU Parliamentary elections and now appears ready to cash in, so to speak. The Socialist Party (PSOE) won European elections in Spain with 33% of the vote. With socialist and leftist parties in France, Germany, and Great Britain suffering massive losses in the elections, PSOE’s strong showing places Spain in a position to potentially lead the European left. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is wasting little time in attempting to cement a leadership role for Spain and expand its influence in the European Union over the coming months, and years. Sanchez has stated Spain will now push for a position on the European Commission (EC) where it can influence policy, legislation, and day-to-day business of the EU.

As neither of the European parliament’s major groups achieved a clear cut majority in the elections, Sanchez was able to take a leading role in negotiations at the summit in Brussels this past week to nominate new heads for the EC, European Central Bank, Representatives for Foreign Policy, and Security Affairs, as well as other high-ranking positions in the Union. Sanchez and Spain are certainly positioned well for the time being. Whether or not Spain will fill the vacuum left by Great Britain’s impending departure, and Italy’s diminishing influence remains to be seen.

 

Author’s Note: I had planned on including Greece and Italy as well in this post. However, given the local election results in Greece, and the effect it is having on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his party, I’ve decided to give Greece its own entry tomorrow evening. I’ll get to Italy later in the week.