Austria’s conservative Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has criticized Germany’s hampering of his country’s efforts to get needed medical equipment during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He says this is indicative of larger problems within the European Union as well that need to be addressed.
Austria media has been reporting that the German border authorities prevented trucks carrying medical supplies bound for Austria from crossing the border. The reason the shipments were held was because Germany had banned the export of such supplies in cases where they were not part of “coordinated international action” in response to the outbreak. The border authorities were unsure if the supplies were included under this purview or not, given the lack of a definition, and the trucks were held back for two weeks until Kurz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had decided the issue through negotiations, according to a report by Remix News.
“It should not happen that we have to fight alone for two weeks to ensure that trucks with protective masks we have already paid for and urgently need get stuck on the German border,” Kurz told the Kronen Zeitung. “And at the same time, we were criticized for our own checks at the border with Italy.”
“Instead of showing mutual solidarity, we are harming each other,” Kurz added. He said that once the crisis has passed, international relations between EU member states will need to be reviewed.
Austria isn’t the only country which has had this problem. Earlier this month, Germany stopped trucks from entering Switzerland that were carrying surgical masks destined for Swiss hospitals, as previously reported by Voice of Europe. Switzerland summoned the German ambassador to voice its displeasure with the move.
Czechia also confiscated some of the Chinese humanitarian aid that was intended for Chinese living in Italy. The Czech government later claimed that it was the result of a misunderstanding and compensated the Italian state for the loss.
Some voices in the Austrian and German media are asking how well the EU is really working, if its members can’t come together in a time of emergency such as now.
EU internal relations have become especially thorny as a result of the pandemic, with sharp divisions between nations over the issue of how the organization should deal with the economic problems stemming from the continent’s shutdown, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.