Anger and disappointment speak from every line. Even those who do not speak Luxembourgish immediately understand that something has broken here: "Ech ginn ni méi dohinn, si hunn hir Grenz-zoumacher jo walt", writes a reader of the Luxembourg newspaper Tageblatt angrily. He would never go "there" to Germany again. There politicians were elected to close the borders. "There is a calculation." Now the neighbors would get the bill. And an "ex-client" continues: Everything that can be bought in Perl is also sent by Amazon. "Pech fir di Grenz-zoumaacher, never forgive me."
It is unusually quiet and empty in Perl, the pretty border town on the Moselle in the border triangle of Germany, France and Luxembourg. Schengen, the city on the Luxembourg side that has become the epitome of abolishing border controls within the EU, lies beyond the vineyards. The two towns are separated by only 607 meters of motorway bridge. Perl in particular lived until mid-March when Luxembourgers and Frenchmen liked to come over to shop. The town has just under 9,000 inhabitants, but there are four dm drugstores alone, including the largest in Europe with 1,250 square meters and 12,500 articles.
The borders between Germany and Luxembourg were the first to reopen on May 16, two months after the federal government closed them. Nevertheless, the huge salesrooms next to Lidl, Kik and Co. are still waiting for customers. The steps echo on the floor between the long rows of shelves with shampoo, sun milk, deodorant and organic food. Until June 15, the French are only allowed to enter the country for a "valid reason", as Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer puts it. Shopping is not a good reason. This is a problem for Perl, but also for the entire Saarland, where retail shopping tourism usually accounts for between 30 and 50 percent of sales. If only they're not resentful.
"The absence of these customers threatens the existence of all stores," says Erich Lang of the shoe store of the same name, not far from the Moselle Bridge. "It was a very difficult time for us as a small company." Therefore, he had already started a petition on the Internet for opening the borders at the beginning of April. Perl's mayor Ralf Uhlenbruch accuses him of lacking solidarity. The CDU politician had not participated in the open letter that city hall chiefs from Rhineland-Palatinate and Luxembourg addressed to the prime ministers of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland in mid-April. Uhlenbruch defends himself not being asked. He was also a staunch European, but protecting the population was his top priority.
Tables are now placed in front of the entrances to the dm stores as if for a standing reception. Instead of snacks and drinks, there are large spray bottles with disinfectant. Bilingual in German and French are asked to clean the handles of the shopping trolleys and not to enter the shops without a mouthguard. But only a few cars with French and Luxembourg license plates are lost in the huge parking lots.
A few locals like that, even a hotel owner. "Peace at last," she sighs. They avoided shopping in town before Corona. "It was an adventure back then, as full as it always was." Possibly plunging into the bustle with a face mask is out of the question.