Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.41 16 Apr 2021


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The French ambassador to Ireland, Vincent Guérend, has said there has to be exceptions to Ireland's 'harsh' mandatory hotel quarantine system.

He was speaking after the European Commission said it was seeking 'clarifications' from the Government over the system.

A spokesperson said on Thursday there were concerns in relation to the general principles of European Union law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination.

"We are in contact with the Irish authorities and will ask them for clarifications on this matter and the criteria used to determine the designated countries", he said.

"While quarantine and testing requirements are a national competence, nevertheless, when affecting citizens’ rights to free movement, such measures have to comply with general principles of EU law."

Ambassador Guérend told The Hard Shoulder there has to be an opt-out.

"We certainly recognise the huge challenge for the Government, for all European governments, and we believe that in the European Union we are stronger together.

"And that we should coordinate our approach as much as possible. As a matter of fact, France has not imposed any restrictions within the EU.

"But in this case you really consider this kind of blanket measure - mandatory quarantine is too harsh and deserves exception.

"We have so many nationals here who actually live on both sides of the [EU] border.

"They have developed a life on both sides; they have [medical] treatments in France, for example, they have to attend funerals in France, etc, there's shared custody for children.

"And all these people are coming to us and saying 'What do we do?'

"What we really expect from the Government is to look at a kind of exception mechanism - currently the only way is to go to court.

"There should be a mechanism, a kind of ombudsman, where people with a real reason to travel can appeal and can be waived from this quarantine.

"We believe that this has to be lifted as soon as possible - as a matter of weeks and not months".

"Ireland may be an island, but there are so many people here living cross-border and you cannot just ignore this.

"And it's important to take into account their life and their essential need to travel".

'Transparency and clarity'

And Ambasador Guérend said the Irish system will be discussed next Tuesday at the EU's General Affairs Council.

"This will be discussed at European level, and we look forward to finding a solution quickly".

While the Belgian ambassador to Ireland, Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, said the system is not clear enough.

"We certainly have questions about the transparency and the clarity of the measures.

"We don't have any detailed information in relation to the scientific criteria that are at the basis of the decision to include Belgium.

"And we don't have information on the parameters to remove a country from the list either, so there's a real problem there.

"We don't know why exactly, on scientific terms, the measure was taken".

Ambassador De Bauw also said he has met with other EU embassies and officials here.

"We remain in close contact with them trying to resolve this and to get the data first, and the criteria to be removed from the list.

"And....we really hope that all countries will get off the list as soon as possible".

Latest figures show there have been 907 bookings into the mandatory hotel quarantine system.

Of these 87 were for March, 720 in April, 94 in May and six in June.

As of April 15th, 18 people in the system have received a positive COVID-19 test - of which four  were probable variants of concern.

Main image: Flags of the European Union and its member states fly in the wind in front of the building of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in September 2019. Picture by: Philipp von Ditfurth/DPA/PA Images

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Belgian Ambassador To Ireland EU European Commission French Ambassador To Ireland Hotel Quarantine Ireland Mandatory Hotel Quarantine Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw The Hard Shoulder Vincent Guérend

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