Where three countries meet: Foreign Minister Maas is travelling to Schengen, Leidingen and Saarlouis
Foreign Minister Maas and his Luxembourg colleague Jean Asselborn (file photo from 2020), © Thomas Imo/photothek.net
In theory, the borders in the Schengen area have been open since 1985. But the COVID-19 pandemic has upended this European normality: controls were temporarily reintroduced at many of the EU’s internal borders from March till June 2020, to curb the spread of the virus.
For many people in the tri-border area of Germany, Luxembourg and France, that was a very testing time, because cross-border coexistence is particularly close here. Foreign Minister Maas is travelling to the region today and will be meeting his counterparts from Luxembourg and France.
Schengen: Symbolic of open borders
More than anywhere else, the little wine-growing village of Schengen in Luxembourg stands for the vision of open borders. This is where the Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985. The participating states – now numbering 26 – do not carry out any checks at their borders. Since the Schengen Agreement came into effect, the only way you know you are crossing an internal border in the EU is by the now-familiar blue sign with the circle of yellow stars.
Since 1985, therefore, Schengen has stood for open borders and the European project, for a peaceful, amicable coexistence without barbed wire and barriers. So the temporary reintroduction in spring 2020 of border checks at the German-Luxembourg border, which runs through the Moselle between Schengen and the German municipality of Perl on the other side of the river, was all the more painful for many committed Europeans.
On 16 May 2020, the temporary border controls having been lifted at midnight, Foreign Minister Maas travelled to Schengen to meet his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn on the bridge at the border. Today Maas is going back to Schengen. This time he will meet not only his colleague from Luxembourg, but also French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Together the three Foreign Ministers will visit the Schengen Agreement Monument and the European Museum. Afterwards they will hold political talks on European and international issues.
Leidingen-Leiding: A border right through the town
In the afternoon, Foreign Minister Maas and his French counterpart Le Drian will together travel on to the nearby Franco-German border region, visiting first a special little place called Leidingen on the German side and Leiding on the French side. Here the border literally runs through the village: on one side of “Neutral Street”, the houses are in Germany, on the other in France. In this village that belongs to two countries, which was particularly hard hit by the temporary border controls in the wake of COVID-19, the Foreign Ministers will meet the mayors of the German and French communities.