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Brussels looks to remove travel restrictions to EU on 1 July

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Brussels looks to remove travel restrictions to EU on 1 July

Photo Customs Administration of Slovenia

(BRUSSELS) - The EU announced Thursday that it is making concrete preparations for the lifting of travel restrictions with countries whose health situation is similar to the EU's and for resuming visa operations.

The Commission wants EU Member States to agree a common list of non-EU countries for which travel restrictions can be lifted as of 1 July, to be reviewed on a regular basis.

Under the recommendations, Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States would lift internal border controls by 15 June, and would prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU until 30 June.

With the health situation in certain third countries remaining critical, the EU executive is not proposing a general lifting of the travel restriction at this stage. Instead the restriction would be lifted for countries selected together by Member States, based on a set of principles and objective criteria including the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations, taking into account data from relevant sources such as ECDC and WHO.

For countries towards which the restriction remains in place, the Commission proposes to enlarge the categories of permitted travellers to include, for instance, international students. The Commission is also issuing guidance to Member States to ensure that the resumption of visa operations abroad is well coordinated with the gradual lifting of the travel restrictions.

"International travel is key for tourism and business, and for family and friends reconnecting," said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson: "While we will all have to remain careful, the time has come to make concrete preparations for lifting restrictions with countries whose health situation is similar to the EU's and for resuming visa operations."

Actions at the EU's external borders needs to be coordinated to be effective, says the Commission, which is asking Member States to agree a common list of non-EU countries for which travel restrictions can be lifted as of 1 July, to be reviewed on a regular basis. To this end, the Commission proposes:

  • Basing the decision to lift restrictions for a specific country on the epidemiological situation and coronavirus response in that country, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and whether or not that country has lifted travel restrictions towards the EU. Restrictions should remain in place for countries whose situation is worse than in the EU. A detailed checklist would help Member States reach a common assessment. Decisions on lifting travel restrictions would concern non-EU nationals residing in a specific country (not its nationals).
  • a coordination mechanism would support Member States and Schengen Associated States at technical level and facilitate the preparation of a list of countries for which travel restrictions could be lifted.
  • Travel restrictions for a specific country could be reintroduced if criteria are no longer met. In addition, Member States can refuse entry to a non-EU traveller presenting a threat to public health, even coming from a country for which restrictions were lifted.

In line with the proposed checklist, the Commission also recommends lifting travel restrictions for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia as of 1 July, given that their epidemiological situation is similar or better than that of the EU.

Where travel restrictions continue to apply, Member States should ensure that those travelling to study are exempted, together with highly skilled non-EU workers if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad. EU citizens and citizens of Schengen Associated States and non-EU nationals legally residing in the EU, as well as their family members, should also be exempt from the travel restriction regardless of whether or not they are returning home, as was the case until now.

The Commission has indicated that travel restrictions within the EU would need to start being lifted gradually before restrictions at the external borders can be relaxed in a second stage. This is well under way, with several Member States having lifted restrictions within the EU and others planning to do so as of 15 June. The Commission strongly encourages the remaining Member States to finalise the process of removing restrictions to free movement and lifting internal border controls within the EU by 15 June.

Regarding visa operations, most Member States decided to suspend or reduce the processing of visa applications as part of pandemic-related measures.The Commission is now presenting guidance for a phased and coordinated return of visa operations to normal.

A harmonised approach is best achieved through consulates simultaneously resuming operations in each location and through full implementation of EU visa rules, together with good communication towards the public. The guidance also covers hygiene measures and precautions for receiving visa applicants.

Finally, if a Member State requires health checks, the Commission says these should take place at the time of travel or shortly before, rather than when applying for a visa; and should apply to all travellers from a given location irrespective of their nationality or visa status.

Communication on the third assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, 11 June 2020

Checklist to be used for the possible lifting of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, 11 June 2020

Guidance for a phased and coordinated resumption of visa operations, 11 June 2020


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