The closure of the border between the Basque Country, Navarre and France affected 70% of cross-border workers

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The Euroregion conducted a survey with 2,400 people in the border area to learn the impact of closing the border

Mikel Irujo, Marian Elorza y Mathieu Bergé

The COVID-19 crisis and the restrictions levied to tackle it had a direct impact on the cross-border relationship and the thousands of people who cross the border between France and Spain on a daily basis. The border was reopened last 21 June after three months of confinement. These restrictive controls had an exceptional effect on cross-border workers.

During this period, only cross-border workers were allowed to travel from one side to the other. Even so, almost 70% were "very or totally affected" by the border's closure, according to data from a report drawn up by the Nouvelle Aquitaine-Basque Country-Navarre Euroregion last June. This analysis was obtained through an online survey, with a total of 2,400 participants from the border zone amongst the three regions.

31.5% of those surveyed are cross-border workers. Most work in commerce, the restaurant and catering industry and other activities related to tourism, with a minority working in professional services.

Purchases and secondary housing

The report offers data on the repercussions of closing the borders on the habits of cross-border citizens. Notwithstanding, two-thirds of those surveyed consider themselves totally or very affected by closure of the border. Moreover, nine out of every two cross-border citizens ceased socioeconomic activities after closure of the border.

Half of those surveyed confirm that they cross the border at least once per week, and 15.8% of them do so every day or almost every day of the week. The reasons for their movement between the regions are mainly socioeconomic. Most of them move to make purchases, to go to a second home or to visit friends and family and, lastly, to conduct leisure or sport activities.

Cross-border companies

According to data obtained from the survey, over half of the companies who employ cross-border employees have implemented exceptional measures after COVID-19's impact: remote work, furloughs, reduced schedules and even lay-offs.

The data make clear that workers and companies have encountered difficulties in implementing these measures and, specifically, in three particular aspects: handing furlough applications, obtaining funding and preparing to restart activity. Notwithstanding, the Euroregion has proposed possible actions or measure to help reduce the impact of closure of the border on the everyday life of these people. To this end, 91% of the workers surveyed deem that cross-border cooperation is essential or particularly important to improve their professional situation.