Borders and Bordering in the EU in the Time of CoViD-19

di Luca Dell’Atti e Emmanuele Quarta

One of the most significant effects of the CoViD-19 pandemic – besides the impact the health crisis had on the political, social, and economic context in most countries across the world – is the introduction of severe restrictions on both international and intranational mobility. As it is known, many national governments implemented such measures in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. In the context of the European Union, this has equaled to the (momentary) suspension of the Schengen agreements as «the majority of Schengen states have partially or totally sealed their land, sea and air borders with the outside world, including to their Schengen/EU partners» (Castan Pinos and Radil 2020). After an initial period of strict lockdown, these measures were loosened (and in some cases re-enacted) according to the evolution of the epidemiological trends. While, at the time of writing, the spread of the pandemic has seemingly begun to slow down in many European countries, international, intranational, and everyday mobility are still subject to (albeit milder) restrictions.


The response of European governments to the CoViD-19 pandemic has been that of reinforcing national borders and restricting citizens’ freedom of movement, in continuity with the securitarian policies adopted in past years to react to transnational phenomena such as terrorism and migration flows. This reaction shows the centrality of the role of the State in the management of borders to protect public order, public safety, and public health, and it highlights the weakness of the European legal space, which, on the other hand, is mainly aimed at guaranteeing freedom of movement and the functioning of the single market. After some theoretical considerations on the evolution of the concept of border in the light of the current pandemic, the article focuses on the European understanding of the element of the border by relating the different concepts of constitutional territory and European legal space and by discussing the issue of sovereignty in Europe starting from the concept of border and in the light of the European response to the health crisis.

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