The Impact of New Border Restrictions on EU Trade Flows
New border measures have been implemented across Europe, with the potential to cause significant supply chain disruptions. Experts warn that the restrictions introduced by Germany at its border crossings with the province of Tyrol, Austria and the Czech Republic may result in delays in freight delivery across the EU. Other countries that introduced such measures are Hungary, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.
Under the recently imposed restrictions, all truck drivers are required to present a negative Covid-19 test, which is likely to have a significant negative impact on trade flows. Borders are open but the green lanes have thus been closed, with the Czech Republic and Austria introducing similar traffic restrictions.
Impact on Traffic
While both negative PCR and rapid antigen tests are accepted, drivers are allowed to enter only if tests have been conducted by an authorized laboratory. This requirement is difficult to comply with on the part of drivers working in another EU Member State. Previously, transport workers were exempt to help avoid supply chain disruptions and delivery delays.
Experts stress on the importance of test exemptions which facilitate road transportation during a pandemic. If the Czech Republic, Tyrol, and Germany choose not to reintroduce exemptions, this can have a significant impact on the single market. The reason is that these crossings are at major EU traffic routes, with over 7,000 trucks crossing borders and using the corridor through Tyrol on a daily basis. About the same number of vehicles are moving on the Dover-Calais corridor every day. Significant disruptions were reported when France introduced similar measures last December, requiring professional drivers to present a negative Covid-19 test.
The traffic authorities recently announced that a 15-km queue had built, with trucks waiting to pass through the Rozvadov-Waldhaus crossing between the Czech Republic and Germany. The queue at the border between Tyrol and Italy – the Brenner Pass – is 5km long.
The EU Response
Logistics experts stress on the fact that truck drivers are at a low risk of infection as they observe strict safety protocols, in addition to being isolated in their cabin. They also comply with social distancing measures such as no physical contact at delivery and pick up locations. The view of the EC’s Transport and Mobility Commission seems to be in line with the position embraced by many European logistics companies. According to Henrik Hololei, Commission Director General, unilateral measures place an undue burden on the shipping industry. In fact, last week the EU asked Member States to bring their regulations in line with the recommendations on travel restrictions. All EU Members have been sent a letter advising governments to abstain from implementing new border measures. According to EU officials one possible solution for Member States is to adopt digital certificates that would facilitate cross border travel. In line with this, Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders stated that the Commission is not discussing the option of making vaccination certificates mandatory.