Czech PM asks EU's Michel to help ease German border controls for trucks

FILE PHOTO: German border police officers stop cars and trucks at the A17 motorway near Czech-German border, after controls between Germany and the Czech Republic have been re-established, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Breitenau, Germany, February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Central European countries asked European Council President Charles Michel to help ease controls imposed by Germany on the Czech and Austrian borders to free up the flow of goods and industrial components, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Wednesday.

Germany installed frontier checks on Sunday, drawing concerns about supply-chain disruptions.

The restrictions along the normally open borders were prompted by alarm over outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region of strains of the coronavirus that spread faster and cause more illness.

Long lines of trucks formed on the Czech-German border daily since Monday as German authorities only allowed in drivers and some commuters with negative coronavirus tests.

“What is happening on German borders is of course against the internal market and a great problem for us all,” Babis told a news conference after leaders of the Visegrad Group of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia met Michel in the Polish city of Krakow.

The region’s industries are tightly integrated with Germany. Large volumes of goods from Hungary and Slovakia and further southeast also pass to Germany through the affected Czech and Austrian borders.

“We informed Charles Michel about it and asked for help,” Babis told the televised news conference.

“The conditions for our drivers are extremely strict. I understand Germany but when the (border) situation was reversed in the first wave (of the pandemic), we were very flexible. We cannot cripple international freight, manufacturing and other production.”

The Czech Republic reported 12,486 new cases of infection for Tuesday, the highest since Jan. 8, and the country’s health minister warned hospitals across the country may overflow in two to three weeks unless the trend changes.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Bernadette Baum