The Hungarian government announced on Friday that it has decided to close borders to foreigners starting on September 1st, re-introducing the border protection measures in force during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic. However, at a press conference of the European Commission, Adalbert Jahnz, spokesperson of the EC, said that although there was a video conference with the border control authorities earlier on the same day, there was no indication that any changes were expected at the Hungarian border.
Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, told a press conference on Friday that there will be two colour codes in the pandemic protocol: Hungary is green, every other country in the world is red. The website of the Consular Service, under the menu item “not recommended areas,” writes “all countries of the world.” Right now Hungary is the only country in Europe that has made such a drastic move.
European Commission: Coronavirus measures should not be discriminatory
The European Commission and the member states of the European Union say that Hungary failed to inform them about the exact details of the border closure and protective measures. Adalbert Jahnz, spokesperson of the EC for the Schengen area, said that they are still examining the details of the Hungarian border closure. However, the EC is of the opinion that the border closure is not an effective measure against the spread of the pandemic.
Jahnz added that although there was a video conference with the border control authorities last Friday, there was no indication that any changes were expected at the Hungarian border. On Monday afternoon, Jahnz posted on his official Twitter that the notification about the border lockdown had finally arrived from Hungary.
It is the national competence of each member state to decide who can enter its territory, but they are obliged to inform each other about the measures, said Vivian Loonela, a spokesman for coronavirus issues at the EC. She emphasized that the committee’s July guideline was to replace the border lock with more targeted measures and for Member States to ensure that regulation is non-discriminatory.
However, according to Brussels, quarantine and mandatory testing are still better than border closures. In a letter dated 7 August, the Union’s executive body warned Member States’ ambassadors that based on the experience of the first wave of the epidemic, transparency, clarity, and predictability are crucial.
As the letter puts it, the situation is currently very varied, the number of infections is negligible in some Member States, while it is rising sharply in other states, so decisions on serious restrictions are being made in those places without any coordination. It is essential to avoid stopping life again for weeks or months, instead of a travel ban, strict quarantine and PCR tests are needed, the Commission emphasized.
Frankfurter Rundschau: The border closure is an insult to Germany
Some countries even say that Hungary failed to inform them about the details of the border closure. German news portal Frankfurter Rundschau for example reported on the Hungarian border closure announced on September 1st, titled “Orbán plunged Hungary into coronavirus chaos, and this is an insult to Germany”.
They claim that the country did not inform Hungary’s partners about the situation. For example, on the website of the German Foreign Ministry, it was stated for a long time after the announcement that “from 1 September, new entry rules will come into force in Hungary. Foreigners may enter the territory of the country only in exceptional cases. Details are not yet known.”
V4 suddenly turn from red to green
Since the Friday announcement on painting the rest of the world “red”, the government has announced several changes.
According to this, the citizens of the V4 countries can enter Hungary, moreover, in their case, the authorities will even accept tests made in their respective countries.