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Luxembourg urges Germany to reopen border closed by virus

Luxembourg urged Germany Tuesday to end reinforced anti-virus measures on its border as EU partners struggle to coordinate their response to the pandemic.

Several European Union members have begun a phased return to normal after national lockdowns with signs that the coronavirus outbreak has passed its peak.

But on Monday, Germany decided to maintain controls on its border with its smaller neighbour until at least May 15, despite calls for solidarity within the bloc.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn wrote to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to protest at the measure, which has caused public anger in a country heavily reliant on cross-border workers.

“The border closures and controls are causing growing discontent among the population on both sides of the border and risk permanently damaging cross-border coexistence in the Greater Region,” Asselborn warned.

He called for the extension of the controls to be halted.

“This would not only be an important signal to the citizens in our model European region, but also with regard to a gradual re-enactment of the Schengen Agreement, which represents one of the greatest achievements of the European unification process,” Asselborn said.

The 1990 Schengen Agreement, named after the Luxembourg town on the German and French borders where it was signed, is the basis for passport-free travel between most EU member states.

During the coronavirus outbreak, member states have suspended its provisions to allow greater border controls between them to protect the integrity of economic lockdown measures on their territory.

But the European Commission, and some member states, have urged members to protect the bloc’s single market and principles of free movement, despite the concerns.

Luxembourg has seen 96 deaths from the virus, fewer per capita than its neighbours Belgium and the Netherlands, which still have open borders with Germany.

The Grand Duchy, sandwiched between much larger allies, is home to only 620,000 people and its economy depends on tens of thousands of cross-border commuters from Belgium, France and Germany.