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21st Jan 2021

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How EU countries will open up in June and July

  • 'Europe’s airports are anxiously waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted and airlines to resume operations,' said the the director of Airports Council International Europe (Photo: Khairil Zhafri)
Last updated 15 June 9.00 CEST

The EU has pledged to lift border controls and related travel restrictions by the end of the month, while the travel ban on non-essential travel applied to non-EU nationals entering the bloc has been extended until 1 July.

Travellers coming from EU-associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) will be exempted from the ban, as will UK citizens.

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However, UK citizens face two-week quarantine requirements from some European countries.

Given that the health situation in certain third countries remains critical, the EU Commission proposed on Thursday (11 June) to open the EU's external borders from 1 July to a list of non-EU countries selected by member states.

This selection will be based on a set of principles, including: the epidemiological situation of the country, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations - while taking into account data and advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization.

The commission proposed a checklist to help member states make this selection.

The EU executive also recommended to lift travel restrictions for the Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia as of 1 July, given its epidemiological situation and special accession status with the EU.

"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," said the commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday.

"The most important thing is to have all the internal borders open before we open the external border," she warned.

Towards the normal functioning of Schengen

While some countries - like Italy and Germany - are opening swiftly and with almost no restrictions in place, others like Denmark, Greece and the Baltic States are proceeding more gradually, opting for "travel bubbles" or lists of approved countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter.

Although the commission has repeatedly pushed EU leaders to lift border controls and travel restriction by mid-June, almost every member state has its own rules and timetable to reopen to tourists this summer - a move that has been criticised for its "lack of coordination".

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte and Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez last week (5 June) sent a letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen calling for coordination in the opening of EU borders.

Both are leaders of nations among the worst-hit by the pandemic, and highly-dependent on tourism.

"The time has come to re-activate our economies, regain normality and an important part of the European project, the freedom of movement within the Schengen area," reads the letter.

Meanwhile, the director of Airports Council International Europe, Olivier Jankovec, said on Tuesday (9 June) that "Europe's airports are anxiously waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted and airlines to resume operations".

"Most national authorities are quite rightly taking a phased approach, but it's vitally important that devices such as quarantine are risk-based and proportionate," he added.

"If quarantine is used as a blunt instrument as it is in the UK, it is one which will deliver an economic and social blow from which we will all struggle to recover," Jankovec also warned.

Additionally, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released a list of "high-risk airports", to enhance aircraft disinfection and mitigate the risks of new infections, which is being used by certain member states, such as Greece, to justified mandatory tests and quarantine measure.

EU commissioner Johansson said "health authorities made clear that there is no longer a clear justification for travel restrictions or border measures in the EU and Schengen Area".

However, experts warned that easing restrictions combined with summer weather could make people forget about social distancing and hygiene rules - triggering a new surge in coronavirus cases and, eventually, bringing back lockdowns into the bloc.

How the EU thinks summer holidays can be done

The EU commission has proposed measures aimed at resuming travel in the EU "in a responsible and coordinated way" - with different advice on transport, hotels, and cross-border trips.

EU to unveil summer holiday plans amid Schengen fears

The European Commission is set to announce a three-phase approach on Wednesday to gradually reopen internal borders. However, concerns over how the principle of free movement in the EU will be affected is growing - as countries announce different approaches.

EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer

The European Commission has announced targets to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination, and the intention of "a common approach" on possible vaccine certificates. Both topics will be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday.

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