Pandemic Politics: Germany To Close Borders

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Open internal border travel has been a foundation block of the European Union’s desire to create a European Superstate. The Schengen network was regarded as a crown jewel, heralding a new era of openness and unity at a dawn of what many hoped would be a ‘One Europe’ mindset. It braved a migrant crisis, as well as the wave of populist nationalism sweeping across the continent since 2016. However, Schengen may have met its match in the coronavirus pandemic. Europe’s freedom of movement is descending into chaos as a growing number of EU nation-states are opting to close their borders in order to stem the flow of the coronavirus. Many EU nation-states are imposing strict entry measures on their borders, or closing them entirely, defying warnings by Brussels to avoid blanket travel bans.

As the hours roll by, the situation at land borders across Europe continues to evolve. The continent has become new epicenter of the pandemic and this fact is driving the border closure actions in every case. Denmark, Poland, and the Czech Republic will close their respective borders almost entirely in the coming days. The most recent EU member to announce border restrictions is Germany. According to the German government, Germany’s borders with France, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Switzerland will be partially closed on Monday. Germany’s federal police chief Dieter Romann explained that his country will not be closing its borders, but controlling them. “We are not closing the borders, that is what they do in North Korea,” he told reporters. “We are controlling the border, that is something completely different.”

Romann’s comments came as the number of coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 1,000 from Saturday. There are now 4,838 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Federal Republic and that number is most likely going to increased more in the coming days.

Thursday 17 December, 2015 Update: Yemen Peace Talks In Danger

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The UN-sponsored Yemen peace talks in Switzerland are in danger of breaking down due to disputes over issues between the warring parties. The talks are hoped to lay the foundation for a permanent ceasefire and peaceful transition of political power, however, at this point they do not appear to be moving in a positive direction.

The key item of dispute is the release of several Yemeni government officials currently being held as prisoners by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Houthis rejected the demand on Wednesday night, stating that the officials will be released following the implementation of a permanent ceasefire. Since then, direct talks between the two sides have been suspended.

Another issue bogging down talks is frailty of the temporary ceasefire, which was put in place in the days leading up to the talks. Clashes have broken out and today the fighting escalated as forces loyal to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi captured a Houthi military base in the city of Marib following two days of sustained fighting. Saudi and other coalition aircraft were also in action against rebel targets in north Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen has not received much attention from the media in recent months as the conflict in Syria has taken center stage in the Middle East. This does not minimize the significance of the situation, however. The stakes are astronomically high for Saudi Arabia, which is supporting the government of President Hadi, and for Iran, which is backing the Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia and Iran are grappling to determine which one will be the dominant power in the Middle East. At the moment, whichever nation-state comes out on top in Yemen will have a nearly insurmountable advantage when the next round of the confrontation begins in the future.