EU unity in tatters: Portugal slams bloc for lack of unity in row over travel restrictions

Lisbon claimed countries had broken an agreement to instate freedom of movement after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted across the Continent. In a fiery statement, its foreign ministry said: “We understand we were all required to reinstate freedom within the EU from July 1 at the latest. We believe restrictions and decisions taken by member states related to other member states manifestly disregarded this bond.”

Portugal, which relies heavily on its tourism industry, fears travel restrictions are still hindering the country’s economic recovery after coronavirus.

Its rant came after Britain – which left the EU in January but is still followings the bloc’s trade and travel rules until the end of the year – announced a quarantine for travellers from Portugal.

Other EU countries, including Ireland, Belgium and Finland, have all imposed their own travel restrictions on the Mediterranean state.

Lisbon initially won plaudits for its handling of the pandemic but has since been hit by criticism after a flurry of several hundred new cases per day in and around the capital.

The government has blamed the high infection rate on its proactive testing regime.

The European Commission said “re-establishing ineffective restrictions and internal EU border controls must be avoided moving forward”.

A spokesman added: “Any restrictions to free movement within the EU should only be used where strictly necessary and coordinated, proportionate and non-discriminatory to address public health risks.”

Europe has been gripped by fears of a potential second wave after a number of countries reported a rise in new infections.

Belgium and Luxembourg face being slapped with travel restrictions because of recent surges in coronavirus cases.

A top German official said he was “very concerned” by the rising infections in the country.

Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, which oversees Germany’s response to the pandemic, said: “We are in the middle of a rapidly developing pandemic.”

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In the past week Germany has recorded more than 3,600 new infections.

Berlin has rolled out a programme of free mandatory coronavirus tests for travellers returning from high-risks countries.

The list includes Brazil, Turkey and the US, as well as regions in Spain, which have been hit by extra travel restrictions.