18-20 March 2021, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany: Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz encountered Armin Laschet, Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, today for an exchange in a good atmosphere.
We are “on the last metres of the pandemic”, the Austrian head of government said before the meeting. Now it was important to dismantle the border controls between Germany and Austria “as soon as possible” and to restore freedom of travel. Both also agreed that European solutions were needed in the fight against the pandemic.
Sebastian Kurz also stressed the need for an eco-social transformation of the economy. Both also pointed out the importance of economic relations between Austria and North Rhine-Westphalia. The phase of reconstruction and recovery after the Corona pandemic had to be used skilfully “to bring about an even stronger ecosocial transformation”. One must “reconcile the relief of work and small incomes” “with the necessary protection of the environment and climate”, said Chancellor Kurz.
The Chancellor had already held talks with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday. “After the talks with the German Interior Minister, I am very optimistic that border controls will be abolished in the coming weeks. The situation in Tyrol has developed excellently – some time ago we had 200 cases of the South African variant, meanwhile it is well below 100.
The path that has been taken there is a success story: we have succeeded in pushing this variant down quite massively. This is the basis for the German decisions and I therefore assume that border controls will soon be abolished,” said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in a press statement after talks with the German Interior Minister in Berlin.
The German Interior Minister had given him a very clear signal that the success in Tyrol was an indication that border controls should be gradually dismantled. However, this decision would have to be taken together with the Ministry of Health and the Bavarian authorities. Since he was in contact with all relevant authorities, he assumed that the border controls would soon be a thing of the past.
Prior to the meeting with Seehofer, Chancellor Kurz had met with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, with whom he had discussed issues such as Russia and Israel, the Chancellor said afterwards. The Chancellor then held talks with the German Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Green passport as a chance to restore freedom of travel
The Chancellor said he was pleased that the Green Passport, which Austria and also some other European countries had developed and promoted, was now also being taken up by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“I know that Germany was very sceptical at the beginning: I am glad that the Commission President has now also made concrete proposals for this project. It is supposed to be a digital green passport and it is supposed to be a way for us all to get back more freedom, to finally be able to travel freely again in Europe,” said the Chancellor, who reiterated that it was not a vaccination passport, but a digital passport for those who had been vaccinated, recovered or tested.
“I thank the Commission President and hope that the Green Passport, which we want to introduce in Austria in mid-April, will be available throughout Europe by 1 June at the latest. With the vaccination, we will return to normality in the summer,” said Sebastian Kurz, who stated that the goal was to aim for a complete restoration of freedom of travel in Europe in the summer, “so that German tourists can spend their holidays in Austria again”.
Rapid development of vaccines is a success story
On Thursday evening, Chancellor Kurz gave the laudatory speech for BioNTech founders Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin at the “Axel Springer Awards” ceremony. In his speech, he praised the rapid progress of science in the development of vaccines. “We cannot thank you enough,” said Kurz, who spoke of a “European and global success story”. It had shown that “almost anything is possible if we decide to work together”. He hoped that one day “we will see the ways in which this experience has made us stronger and more resilient – as individuals, societies and democracies”.
The Chancellor expressed confidence that “the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching” in the fight against the Corona pandemic. Only if it is possible to vaccinate large sections of the population by the summer will it be possible to return to normality in the course of the summer, Chancellor Kurz said as per statement below.
For further information
Austrian Federal Chancellery: https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/bundeskanzleramt/nachrichten-der-bundesregierung/2021/03/bundeskanzler-sebastian-kurz-gehe-davon-aus-dass-grenzkontrollen-nach-deutschland-bald-der-vergangenheit-angehoeren.html?fbclid=IwAR3WgCl8wMWc3c5pzl3GI01VgMOVK–kWY4dJ8i5Krgh0HY3W0z6AgTeCEo
Federal President of Germany: https://www.bundespraesident.de/DE/Home/home_node.html#-gallery
Representation of NRW to the German Federation: https://mbei.nrw/de/oesterreichischer-bundeskanzler-zu-gast
Main picture by NRW-Landesvertretung, Phil Dera.