“Parts stuck at the border could disrupt our Just in Time supply chains" - CLEPA secretary general Sigrid de Vries

“Parts stuck at the border could disrupt our Just in Time supply chains" - CLEPA secretary general Sigrid de Vries

European automotive parts body, CLEPA, says the decision by Germany to implement border controls between itself, Austria and the Czech Republic, could cause critical delays in the supply chain.

Berlin decided to trigger the checks at its external frontiers following the Czech Republic and the Federal state of Tyrol in Austria being designated as areas of coronavirus variants of concern.

The German Interior Ministry said it had instructed police to "enforce compliance" with the rules at its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic, with those not meeting the conditions being denied entry.

Calls to CLEPA in Brussels were not immediately returned, but in a statement, the supplier association said the border controls risked creating "disturbances" in automotive production.

"Europe's automotive suppliers are concerned about recent announcements on border closures and intensified inspections," said CLEPA general secretary, Sigrid de Vries.

"These measures result in disruption at Europe's internal borders and critical delays in the supply chain. The Single Market is an important achievement of the European Union. Defending its integrity is a priority, specifically with regards to the freedom of movement of goods and workers.

"Parts stuck at the border could disrupt our Just in Time supply chains, interrupt production and put the sector's performance and jobs at risk. EU governments must respect their commitment agreed during the January Council to keep borders open.  

"Transport of goods should be exempt from border closures and Member States should ensure the alignment of their border control measures to support the functioning of the Single Market. If controls at the border crossings are intensified, Member States should respect their commitment to prioritise freight transport, as done successfully during the first wave through the introduction of 'Green Lanes' with easily applicable rules."

However, in a statement yesterday (16 February), Germany's Interior Minster, Horst Seehofer in agreement with the Minister-Presidents of the States of Bavaria and Saxony, noted there would be exceptions applied to workers in "system-critical" sectors.

"Protecting public health has the highest priority," said Seehofer. "The high rates of infection along our borders require a rigorous response. At the same time, we are aware our border regions are interconnected in many different ways.

"Cross-border commuters employed in system-critical sectors should remain able to enter Germany. We are acting pragmatically wherever possible. The solution we have now found for cross-border traffic could serve as a model for fighting the pandemic in this area going forward."

The Interior Ministry in Berlin was not immediately available to clarify what the system-critical elements were, but the restrictions in Germany come shortly after COVID-19 test requirements in Dover last December, resulted in initial long queues for lorry drivers looking to cross the English Channel.

"It is important to note COVID-test requirements for professional truck drivers could undermine corridors for goods and risk disrupting supply chains, as shown by the example of Dover in December, where long queues to test truck drivers resulted in significant disruption, while almost all truck drivers tested negative for the virus," added de Vries.

"Only by setting up a practical test practice that can ensure the protection of the workers while guaranteeing the supply of goods would keep the automotive supply chain working."