Commission recommends Schengen countries open internal borders ‘as soon as possible’

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said that with the Coronavirus situation improving in all Member States, having internal border controls is no longer effective.
Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Jun 2020

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday, Johansson said, “My message to Schengen countries is to open up as soon as possible. We are recommending they do so from Monday [June 15].”

She added, “We have now reached a stage where the situation with the pandemic is improving and getting better and better in all Member States and the advice is that having internal border controls is not effective anymore.”

She said it was hoped that the EU’s external borders will open from 1 July.


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Asked about the situation of the UK, which has this week introduced a 14-day quarantine for all people arriving in the country, Johansson said, “I hope that the UK will also follow our recommendation, but I have to stress that this is only for Schengen countries. The UK says it will review the rule at the end of this month.”

“UK citizens are still being treated as EU citizens, but the UK is not in the Schengen scheme. The issue of quarantines is very difficult but there is a huge difference between having a general quarantine (such as in the UK) or more targeted quarantine to address specific health risks.”

“The difference in risk from one country to another has to be taken into account.”

“My message to Schengen countries is to open up as soon as possible. We are recommending they do so from Monday” 

She told reporters that current travel restrictions should be lifted for countries “selected together” by Member States.

This “list” of eligible countries, she added, would be 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.”

For countries where restrictions remain 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 ensure that the resumption of visa operations abroad is well coordinated with the gradual lifting of the travel restrictions.

She said, “Most Schengen states have already said they will open their borders. This is good because it means people can, for instance, start to see loved ones and it will help people who work across borders within the EU.”

The commission has, she said, set up a special website to find out which countries have, or will from Monday, lift travel controls.

She said restrictions into the EU on non-essential travel should be lifted “gradually” from 1 July.

She admitted, “there could be a difficult road ahead to get a coordinated approach on this, but we will do all we can to facilitate it.”

“Most Schengen states have already said they will open their borders. This is good because it means people can, for instance, start to see loved ones and it will help people who work across borders within the EU”

Countries which, from next month, will be able to resume entry into the EU would be expected to introduce reciprocal arrangements for EU nationals.

“Following the lifting of all internal border checks inside the Union, we are proposing a clear and flexible approach towards removing restrictions on travel to the EU starting on 1 July.”

“International travel is key for tourism and business, and for family and friends reconnecting. 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.”

She said, “I have to stress that the protection of public health is still the most important priority for us; this is not just about borders but how we still respect social distancing rules. We are still in a pandemic and we must follow the guidelines.”

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