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EU lockdown exits will need more open borders, jobs chief says

European Union countries will need to ease border restrictions to let in cross-border and seasonal workers as they gradually pull out of lockdowns and relaunch their economies, the bloc’s commissioner for jobs said on Friday.

The EU Commission issued guidelines to the 27 member states in March, urging them to let critical frontier workers, such as in the health or food sectors, cross borders.

Some 1.5 million people live in one EU country and work in another.

The situation improved after many countries’ initial reflex to close frontiers but problems remained, Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit told Reuters from Luxembourg.

Despite the need for health controls, border restrictions have to be proportionate and not discriminate against workers living in different countries, Schmit said. The EU executive is talking to governments to find a solution, including to establish how seasonal farm laborers could travel to plant or harvest crops.

Up to 80,000 seasonal workers are due to arrive by plane in Germany in April and May, but hundreds of thousands are needed across the bloc. Schmit said a major issue was provision of accommodation that allowed social distancing.