The EU’s external borders have been effectively closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic but the European Commission is set to announce a plan for a “progressive and partial” reopening of them from July 1st.
In the coming days the European Commission will publish proposals for an easing of its external border restrictions from July 1st, the commission’s vice-president Josep Borrell announced on Wednesday.
Borrell explained the EU’s plan was to lift restrictions with certain countries whilst taking into account “a certain number of principles and criteria” and basing the move on “a common approach” between member states.
Further details on which countries will be included in the move to lift restrictions will be made clearer when the proposals are published.
The EU along with Schengen area countries like Switzerland and Norway closed their borders for any non-essential travel from outside Europe in mid-March. The restrictions are currently set to stay in place until June 15th, but will likely be extended until the end of the month.
EU officials have repeatedly stressed that restoring frictionless travel within Europe was their priority before opening up travel from outside Europe.
Ylva Johansson, EU Commission for Home Affairs, said recently: “Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it.
“Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel.”
The EU commission can only propose a way forward with the final decision on reopening external borders resting with member states. Johansson has suggested member states were not all in agreement on how the external borders should be reopened and what conditions should apply.
Greece, which relies heavily on tourism for its economy has already announced plans to reopen travel links to certain non-EU countries such as Australia and China on June 15th.
EU countries have been steadily reopening borders in recent days or making announcements when border restrictions will be dropped.
The majority of EU and Schengen countries have announced plans or a desire to reopen borders for European travel on June 15th.
What is essential travel?
The EU’s definition of essential travel is stricter than many countries’ individual restrictions and does not contain any exemption for visits for family reasons.
People who can travel into the European bloc include
- Citizens of an EU country
- Non EU citizens who are permanent residents of an EU country and need to come home
- Healthcare workers engaged in crucial work on the coronavirus crisis
- Frontier workers and in some circumstances seasonal workers
- Delivery drivers