From midnight this Monday and for the duration of the state of alarm due to coronavirus, Spain will reestablish rigorous control of its land borders with France and Portugal. Only Spanish citizens and residents, cross-border workers, freight transport and a few other exceptions will be able to enter. This was announced by interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska today at a press conference from Madrid. The measure does not affect air and sea borders, but action on that front is not ruled out. This decision is in addition to the European Commission's proposal this Monday to close its foreign borders for a month.
The Spanish interior minister announced the measure, after participating in a video conference at a combined European Council meeting of EU member states' interior and health ministers. Marlaska said that reestablishing border controls "is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate initiative." As for air and sea borders, he did not rule it out later. "All options may be considered," he said. Spain's move affects France and Portugal in the EU, but also Andorra and the UK - through Gibraltar.
There are several exceptions to this border closure: Spanish citizens, foreigners residing in Spain, cross-border workers, diplomatic or international organizations based in Spain, and people who have to enter for reasons of force majeure. Nor will the measure have any effect on the transport of goods, to avoid situations of shortage. It is being considered whether the Spanish army may participate in the control of land borders in coordination with Spain's police forces and autonomous regional police.
"All Spanish and European citizens can feel protected by the actions of the authorities as a whole," Fernando Grande-Marlaska said in a press conference. "We are united in our fight against this public health crisis," he added. The main purpose of these measures is to "flatten the curve" of the graph of people infected, he said.
Rail and air routes to Portugal cut
In the case of the border between Spain and Portugal, the two countries have also agreed to suspend the air and rail connections. This decision, however, was made public by the Portuguese authorities, in a press conference at the same time as Marlaska's, although the Spanish minister made no reference to it. This cut will also start from midnight. Flights between Spain and Italy were already suspended last week.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has proposed this Monday to close the EU's external borders due to coronavirus for 30 days, with a few exceptions. The proposal is to restrict travel to the European Union during these 30 days, with the option of extending the period. Some of the exceptions that would not be affected by this closure would be: EU residents and family, diplomatic corps members, coronavirus containment personnel, transport workers and customs staff. In addition, food and medical supplies would be given preferential access.