European Ombudsman closes the Ararteko's consultation on the closure of the cross-border bridge between Irun and Hendaye

On 12 February 2024, the European Ombudsman informed the Ararteko of its  decision to close the query brought to the European Commission in August, regarding the French authorities' closure of the cross-border pedestrian bridge between Irun and Hendaye.  

As this institution reported in July 2023, the Ararteko took a series of steps with the French Ombudsman and the European Ombudsman, to call on the French authorities to re-open the pedestrian bridge between Irun and Hendaye, given the serious consequences that the closure was having for the residents of the border towns.  After it gave leave for the Ararteko's consultation to proceed, the European Ombudsman lodged an information request with the European Commission, as the authority in charge of overseeing those border closures that are exceptions to the ordinary rules of the Schengen Agreement. 

In its response from 19 September 2023, the Commission explained that it was up to the Member States to decide the scope of the reintroduced controls based on their experience and risk assessment, which can imply the restriction of certain order points along an internal border; it pointed out that the Member States are better placed to determine the existence of risks and the measures needed to deal with them.  However, the Commission concluded that it was aware of the impact of border closures on cross-border regions; it is therefore finalising an amendment of the Schengen Borders Code, so that the decision to reintroduce controls along the internal borders also includes an assessment of its impact on the cross-border regions.

The Ararteko informed the European Ombudsman that the latter’s intervention and the explanations provided by the European Commission were an adequate response to the consultation; the Ararteko also expressed its satisfaction as the cross-border bridge had indeed re-opened at the end of October 2023 (in other words, after the intervention by the European Ombudsman with the European Commission). Therefore, in February 2024, the European Ombudsman decided to end its intervention and duly informed the Ararteko. 

The Ararteko very much welcomed the outcome of the consultation process with the European Ombudsman, that substantiated its intervention with the European Commission in this regard, by the practical impact of the opening of the border bridge in October 2023.