European Commission proposes temporary ban on non-essential travel to EU

Under the proposals, entry to the European Union at its external borders will be restricted for any non-EU national for an initial period of 30 days.
credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

17 Mar 2020

Speaking on Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “I propose to the heads of state or government to introduce temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union.”

She added that she had informed G7 leaders about these intentions during a video conference call.

EU leaders are expected to formally back the proposals during a videoconference this afternoon.


The move has been widely backed, including by French President Emmanuel Macron who said in a televised address, “As of Tuesday at noon, external borders of the European Union and the Schengen area will be closed.”

“All travel between non-EU countries and the European Union will be suspended for 30 days.”

Von der Leyen, in her speech after the conference call, said, “The European Union and other parts of the world are confronted with a public health crisis due to the spread of the coronavirus. Our healthcare system is under pressure. Therefore, Member States have taken strong measures to slow down the spread of the virus. But these measures are effective only when they are coordinated.”

“This is why we present today guidelines on border measures. We have two work strands: We need to protect people from the spread of the virus, and at the same time, we have to make sure that we maintain the flow of goods.”

“We propose so-called green lanes, fast lanes, to give priority to transport of goods, like medical goods, perishable goods, notably food and emergency services” Ursula von der Leyen

“We therefore propose so-called green lanes, fast lanes, to give priority to transport of goods, like medical goods, perishable goods, notably food and emergency services.”

The German added, “But we need to do more to reduce the huge pressure on our healthcare system. The less travel, the more we can contain the virus.”

“As I have just informed our G7 partners, I propose to the heads of state and government to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU. The restriction should be in place for an initial period of 30 days, which can be prolonged as necessary.”

Meanwhile, also on Monday, Eurogroup chairman Mário Centeno said, “We will protect our citizens and our currency, come what may and with everything we have got.”

He was speaking after a video call with all his fellow EU finance ministers of their response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Our commitment to provide support in this time of need is unlimited,” Centeno added. “We will do whatever it takes and more to restore confidence and support a rapid recovery.” He said that ministers would meet again soon.

Elsewhere, the Commission has offered up to €80 million of financial support to CureVac, a vaccine developer from Tübingen, Germany, to scale up development and production of a vaccine against the coronavirus in Europe.

“We will do whatever it takes and more to restore confidence and support a rapid recovery” Mário Centeno, Eurogroup chairman

Von der Leyen and EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, discussed the issue with the CureVac management via videoconference on Monday.

The Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Ambroise Fayolle, also participated.

"The support will come in form of an EU guarantee of a currently assessed EIB loan of an identical amount, in the framework of the InnovFin Infectious Disease Finance Facility under Horizon 2020," noted a Commission spokesman.

The Commission, meantime, has introduced new restrictions on journalists caused by the outbreak.

It says that “to ensure the duty of care for its staff and external visitors, the spokesperson’s service has introduced a voluntary record of all participants attending press events in the main Berlaymont press room, to help trace and inform people in case of one of the participants is infected.”

As in other countries, notably Italy, Spain and now the UK, sweeping restrictions have also been introduced in Belgium where the country’s King Philippe addressed the nation in a speech on Monday evening.

“We are facing an unprecedented global crisis,” Philippe said in his sombre address to Belgians, expressing support for health sector workers and asking for “responsible behaviour from everybody.”

The King said, “Belgium is in a crucial phase today to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. We have to do this for ourselves but also for others, and especially for the most vulnerable among us.”

With Belgium believed to be considering a total lockdown, he said, “This test will make us stronger.”

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