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Spanish government announces reopening of border with Portugal (without telling Lisbon)

Published on 05/06/2020

Spain was forced into a U-turn yesterday after announcing that its borders with Portugal and France were to reopen this month — leading Lisbon to complain that it hadn’t been informed.

During a meeting with members of the international press Thursday morning, Spanish Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto unexpectedly revealed that the restrictions on border crossings with neighbouring Portugal and France would be lifted on June 22, the day after Spain’s national lockdown measures end.

The unilateral decision to reopen the borders — which were sealed to stop the spread of the coronavirus on March 16 — shocked officials in Portugal and led to a terse statement from Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, who told the press that any change to the border closure agreements had to be green-lit “by both governments.”

“No country except Portugal can make decisions about the Portuguese border,” Santos Silva declared, adding that the government would demand an explanation from Madrid.

While appealing for greater collaboration on the common border’s management, the Portuguese minister pointed out that Madrid had also ignored its neighbours and acted on its own in May, when it announced that it would impose a two-week quarantine on all international arrivals through June 1. That move irked the French government, which said it would impose identical measures on Spaniards entering its territory.

Santos Silva lamented that, instead of negotiating border reopenings with neighbouring countries, the Spanish government was allowing successive ministers to announce policies that “do not fall within that framework of close coordination.”

He said that, whatever Madrid announced, “from the Portuguese point of view, the land border with Spain is closed during the month of June.”

Soon after the Portuguese minister spoke, the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism took back Maroto’s announcement and issued a statement in which it clarified that the existing border restrictions could be extended after the expiration of the national state of emergency, and that “international mobility” would only resume on July 1. In the same note, the ministry explained that movement within Spain would be permitted from June 22 and that it was in “permanent contact” with “both the French and Portuguese authorities to coordinate measures at the land borders with both countries.”