Permanent Damage (I)

Protests in France and Luxembourg against the closure of German borders, harassment by German federal police and anti-French chauvinism.

BERLIN/PARIS/LUXEMBOURG (Own report) - Over the weekend, hundreds of French and Luxembourgian citizens have protested the ongoing closure of German borders. On March 16, the German government unilaterally reinstated strict border controls. Since then, German police have prevented more than 100,000 citizens of several neighboring countries from entering Germany. Berlin's measures have been causing considerable hardships also for French and Luxembourgian citizens, working in German factories and hospitals. They are also being regularly exposed to harassment by German border police and to a resurgence of old anti-French chauvinism in Germany. French commuters are increasingly being treated as "second-class EU citizens," notes a French senator. The former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had warned that "Germany will cause permanent damage with the way it is treating some of its neighbors." Germany's crisis policy is also provoking protests in Southern and Eastern Europe.


Indignation has been smoldering since the German government unilaterally reinstated controls at its borders with Luxembourg and France on March 16. Complaints are being raised because this measure is objectively incomprehensible. For example, the German federal police closed the border all along France's Grand Est region, even though only one of its ten departments, the department Haut-Rhin, has registered a particularly high concentration of Covid-19 infections.[1] Controls are being continued at the border to Luxembourg, even though the country has stricter pandemic control regulations than Germany and registers new infections only in low-double digit numbers. At the same time, the border control has serious implications for people living near the border. For example, cross-border commuters, whose work is still welcomed in Germany, because they are employed by German companies and hospitals, often have to endure detours of dozens of kilometers to arrive at their jobs. Miles of traffic jams develop at border crossings.


Harassment during border controls, and treatment by German federal police is also causing indignation. In a joint letter, mayors of six Luxembourgian and seven German municipalities in the border region have complained that it is "no longer" sufficient to show the currently required pass when crossing into Germany. Commuters are also being made to "show their ID-cards" and "state the purpose of their border crossing." More frequently German police are also demanding the "vehicle documents," thereby unnecessarily prolonging the controls and exacerbating the traffic jams.[2] A video provoked widespread anger in Luxembourg a few days ago, showing the intervention of German police officers against a citizen of that country, who was inquisitively approaching the German border barrier. A car of the German federal police approached at high speed, a police officer jumped out and sprang over the barrier to chase the Luxembourger. German police officers feel free to refuel their police cars in Luxembourg, where gasoline is cheaper, even though current regulations reserve this right only to German commuters. "This does not ease the citizens' anger, on the contrary," the mayors from Luxembourg and Germany note in their letter.

Anger and Stupefaction

To counter popular resentment, the above-mentioned Luxembourgian and German mayors wrote a letter, already on April 14, to the Prime Minister of Rhineland- Palatinate Malu Dreyer and her counterpart in Saarland, Tobias Hans asking for their help. "To date, we have not received any response, not even an acknowledgment of receipt," said the Mayor of the Wormeldingen municipality in Luxembourg.[3] In a second letter, dated May 1, the 13 mayors confirm that, what had started out as "acceptance" of the border controls is now developing "into anger and stupefaction." "Our citizens are not only losing faith in Europe, but are also developing an aversion toward our German partners."[4] This time the letter was not sent to German officials, but rather to Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn. Asselborn, who, until now, is hardly known for his criticism of Berlin, forwarded the letter further to Germany's Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer - with the remark, "the border closures and controls" are causing "a growing hostility in the population."[5] The former President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker had already warned that "Germany will cause permanent damage with the way it is treating some of its neighbors."[6]

No Answer

The border areas of Northeast France are suffering similarly, where complaints are also raised of completely unnecessary harassment at the hands of German police officers. Commuters are being refused passage at the border because of alleged expired - and therefore "invalid" - ID cards, even thought the French government has prolonged the validity of French IDs for 10 - 15 years due to the exceptional situation.[7] It is unclear, why German federal police officers have suddenly begun to check tire treads on cars with French license plates, even though this costs the commuters hours of waiting, and contributes nothing toward warding off the Covid-19 pandemic.[8] French students at the German-French High School in Freiburg are protesting that, because of border controls, they hardly have the possibility of regularly attending classes and therefore are at a disadvantage to their German classmates for their upcoming senior year's final exams, to be held in a few weeks. Letters of protest sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron have remained fully ignored.[9] The harassment at the border is that much more conspicuous, it is often said, because the 2019 Treaty of Aachen was supposed to prevent this type of situation. an intensive expansion of "trans-border cooperation" was among the things Berlin and Paris agreed to in that document.[10]

"Dirty French"

In addition, anti-French chauvinism is being revived in Germany. It was reported that back in April in Saarland, French commuters were being ostracized and told to go back to "Corona France." Eggs were occasionally even thrown at their cars.[11] The mayor of the German border town Gersheim, Michael Clivot, admitted that a "certain hostility had increased in relations to our French friends." "Some were being verbally harassed and stopped on the streets."[12] Christophe Arend, a parliamentarian, member of Macron's party, La Rèpublique En Marche! (LREM) noted that within a brief period, the old prejudice of the "dirty French" has resurged in German border regions.[13] Just recently the case of a French women, working in Kehl, Germany for a German company, became known: When the woman sought to buy something in a bakery for her lunch, she was denounced to the police, who lectured her that French are currently not allowed to buy food in Germany, and made to pay a fine. French Senator Claude Kern recently reported that in Germany, many "French citizens feel they are second class EU citizens."[14]


The resentment at German unilateral border closures, the harassment by the German federal police and the growing chauvinism toward citizens of the neighboring countries have sparked protest actions at German borders to Luxembourg and to France over the past weekend. This is developing at a time when in southern Europe, anger over the lack of German support in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the German government's financial policy is also growing. ( reported.[15]) In Eastern Europe as well, new protests are beginning to stir. will soon report.


[1] See also EU Solidarity (II).

[2] Grenzschließungen und Grenzkontrollen an den deutsch/luxemburgischen Grenzübergängen. Grevenmacher, 1. Mai 2020.

[3] Sidney Wiltgen: Bürgermeister aus Luxemburg und Deutschland beklagen "untragbare Zustände". 06.05.2020.

[4] Grenzschließungen und Grenzkontrollen an den deutsch/luxemburgischen Grenzübergängen. Grevenmacher, 1. Mai 2020.

[5] Luxemburg beklagt sich. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07.05.2020.

[6] In Luxemburg herrscht Wut auf Deutschland. 07.05.2020.

[7] Deutsch-französische Freundschaft in der Krise. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04.05.2020.

[8] Anne-Laure Marie: Coronavirus : tensions à la frontière franco-allemande, un manifeste contre la haine recueille 200 signatures. 19.04.2020.

[9] Julien Steinhauser: Les élèves alsaciens du lycée franco-allemand se sentent floués et manifestent. 07.05.2020.

[10] See also Der Vertrag von Aachen.

[11] Grenzen der Freundschaft. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.04.2020.

[12] Jonas Mueller-Töwe: "Franzosen trauen sich zum Teil gar nicht mehr hierher". 10.04.2020.

[13] Grenzen der Freundschaft. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.04.2020.

[14] Deutsch-französische Freundschaft in der Krise. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04.05.2020.

[15] See also EU Solidarity (II) and Germany First.