Ban on non-essential travel into EU by foreign nationals is extended until 1 July
The EU has pledged to lift border controls inside its territory by the end of the month while extending a ban on travellers coming from outside the bloc until 1 July.
The extension of the ban on non-essential travel by foreign nationals into the EU’s border free-travel zone was approved by the EU’s 27 home affairs ministers on Friday by video conference.
The travel ban, which had been due to expire on 15 June, applies to all non-EU countries, with exemptions for citizens from EU-associated countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. British travellers also remain exempt from the ban but face two-week quarantine requirements from some European governments.
The EU’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told journalists that “almost all member states” had expressed “a strong preference for a further but short prolongation” of the travel ban. Countries had agreed a “gradual and strictly coordinated lifting” of the restriction from July, she said.
In a boost for the summer holiday plans of millions of Europeans, most EU countries are expected to end internal border controls by 15 June. The commissioner has called on all EU member states to remove internal border controls by the end of June, although officials said a few restrictions could remain in place until mid-July.
“I personally believe that we will return to a full functioning of the Schengen area and freedom of movement of citizens no later than the end of the month of June,” Johansson said. “Both the health and the political situation allows for this.”
The news will allow millions of Europeans to make summer holiday plans and boost the hard-hit tourism industry. “Physical distancing and other health-related measures are still needed, of course. But health authorities are clear that there is no longer a clear justification for either travel restrictions or border measures within the EU Schengen area,” Johansson said.
Over the last 14 days there have been fewer than 100 new infections per 100,000 people within the Schengen zone, barring a few exceptional regions, notably in Sweden, according to a draft paper circulated among the ministers before the meeting.
In a joint intervention, the leaders of Spain and Italy have urged the head of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, to draw up common safety protocols on transport across Europe’s border-free travel zone.
Both Spain and Italy have large tourist industries, which they are anxious to reopen to get their economies moving. Common safety rules for transport and “coordinated, non-discriminatory” lifting of EU internal border controls are crucial, says the letter, signed by Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte. “How this process is carried out will largely determine our citizens’ perception of the centrality of the European Union in tackling this crisis.”