EU Member States gradually lift travel restrictions, with all the necessary safety and precautionary means in place. Citizens can travel again after months of confinement. With the health situation now improving in the EU, the Commission recommends Member States remove all restrictions by 15 June 2020. A common and coordinated approach should be ideal. These rules will restore freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls within the EU.
Travel advice and open Border measures
There is no doubt that the possibility to improve the access to the region, avoiding long queues at the borders is of utmost importance given the share of tourism in the GDP among the countries of the region. On 11 June 2020, the Commission invited Member States to prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU until 30 June 2020 and set out an approach to progressively lift the restriction afterwards.
Commissioner added: “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.”
The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to prolong it until 30 June, applies to many countries. This includes all Schengen Member States including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania and the 4 Schengen Associated States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. 30 countries in total. All these countries implement it through national law.
Gradually removing restrictions on travel to the EU
Actions at the EU’s external borders must be coordinated and uniform to be effective. As travellers entering the EU can move freely from one country to another, it is crucial that Member States coordinate their decisions on lifting travel restrictions. This is why Member States should agree on a common list of non-EU countries. These travel restrictions can be lifted as of 1 July, to be reviewed on a regular basis. To this end, the Commission proposes:
Objective criteria: The decision to lift restrictions for a specific country should be based on the epidemiological situation and coronavirus response in that country, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and whether or not that country has lifted travel restrictions towards the EU. Restrictions should be lifted first with countries whose epidemiological situation is similar to the EU average and where sufficient capabilities to deal with the virus are in place. Restrictions should remain in place for countries whose situation is worse than in the EU. The Commission proposes a detailed checklist to help Member States reach a common assessment. Decisions on lifting travel restrictions would concern non-EU nationals residing in a specific country (not its nationals).
Common and coordinated approach: The Commission proposes a coordination mechanism whereby it would support Member States and Schengen Associated States at technical level and facilitate the preparation of a list of countries for which travel restrictions could be lifted. Member States under the EU’s integrated political crisis response mechanism will prepare decisions on lifting restrictions. Member States should adopt such decisions in a coordinated manner and ensure uniform application across the EU. This will be a dynamic process and the integrated political crisis response mechanism would need to coordinate further updates.
Flexibility: It will be possible to reintroduce travel restrictions for a specific country if the criteria are no longer met. In addition, Member States can still refuse entry to a non-EU traveller. A traveller could be a “threat to public health”, even coming from a country for which restrictions were lifted.
Students and non-EU Workers
Where the travel restrictions continue to apply, Member States should ensure that those travelling to study are an exception. This includes highly skilled non-EU workers if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad. EU citizens and citizens of Schengen Associated States and non-EU nationals legally residing in the EU, as well as their family members, should also be exempt from the travel restriction regardless of whether or not they are returning home, as was the case until now.
In the roadmap on lifting containment measures, the Commission indicated that travel restrictions within the EU would need to start being lifted gradually before restrictions at the external borders can be relaxed in a second stage. This is now well under way, with several Member States having already lifted restrictions within the EU and others planning to do so as of 15 June 2020. The Commission strongly encourages the remaining Member States to finalise the process of removing restrictions to free movement and lifting internal border controls within the EU by 15 June 2020.
After 30 June, the restriction should be lifted for countries selected together by Member States. Everybody follows 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 such as ECDC and WHO.
Balkans Open Bordersas of 1 July
In line with the proposed checklist, the Commission also recommends to lift travel restrictions for Balkans. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia open borders as of 1 July, if their epidemiological situation is similar or better than that of the EU. This also follows on the Commission’s readiness to closely associate the Western Balkans region with the implementation of the roadmap towards lifting containment measures.
The coronavirus outbreak is a serious threat to public health. Lockdowns and other coordinated restrictive measures are necessary to save lives. However, these measures may also severely slow down our economies and can delay the deliveries of critical goods and services. The European Commission has taken measures to ensure continued and uninterrupted land, waterborne and air cargo services. These services are of crucial importance for the functioning of the EU’s internal market. It is also an effective response to the current public health crisis.
The guidelines represent general principles for the safe and gradual restoration of passenger transportation by air, rail, road and waterways. Guidelines also contain practical recommendations on, for example, limiting contacts between passengers and transport workers, and the passengers themselves, and on the use of personal protective equipment while travelling. Dedicated recommendations there are for each mode of transport.
Safely resuming tourism services
The Commission set out a common framework which provides criteria for a safe and gradual restoration of tourism activities. Also the development of health protocols for hotels and other forms of accommodation. The aim is to protect the health of both guests and employees. These criteria include epidemiological evidence; sufficient health system capacity being in place for local people and tourists; robust surveillance and monitoring, testing capacity and contact tracing.
Ensuring cross-border interoperability of tracing apps
On 13 May, the EU Member States, supported by the Commission, agreed on a protocol to ensure cross-border interoperability of voluntary contact tracing apps, so that citizens can be warned of a potential infection with coronavirus when they travel in the EU.
Safely restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls
All relevant border control measures should be coordinated amongst Member States at EU level in order to harmonise the border controls in practise. These exceptional measures are implemented on the principles of necessity and proportionality. Passengers and travellers can be confident that their rights are protected.
Overstay caused by travel restrictions
Visa holders in the Schengen area who cannot leave before the expiry date may extend time-frame up to a maximum stay of 90/180 days by the designated Member States’ authorities. If the visa holders stay beyond the extended period of 90/180 days, a national long-stay visa or a temporary residence permit should be issued by the national authorities.
Member States should waive administrative sanctions or penalties on third-countries nationals. EU countries have to understand that they can’t leave due to the travel restrictions. Overstays due to the temporary travel restrictions should not be taken into account during the processing of future visa applications.
Advice for consumers in Europe
The European Consumer Centre Network provides advice and assistance to citizens around consumers’ rights on cross-border issues. This includes also hotel or travel bookings affected by virus. Information on resolving consumer disputes is also available on theResolve your consumer complaint.
Beware of online scams related to products that allegedly can cure or prevent the coronavirus infection. Rogue traders advertise and sell products, such as protective masks, caps and hand sanitizers to consumers, which allegedly prevent or cure an infection but they may be fake.
Under EU rules, travellers have the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for cancelled transport tickets. Tickets for plane, train, bus/coach and ferries or even package travel. While reaffirming this right, Commission aims to ensure that vouchers become a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips. In the context of the current pandemic, virus has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators.
EU consumer law does not regulate the conditions for and consequences of cancellation of events or individual services (sports and cultural events, car rental, accommodation, etc.). Therefore, your rights as a consumer depend on national contract law and the type and terms of your contract. This includes all contract rules of cancellation policy (e.g. refundable or non-refundable booking).
According to the Unfair Contract Terms Directive 93/13/EEC , standard contract terms have to be transparent. These may not unfairly limit the rights of consumers under the relevant national contract law.
The coronavirus outbreak is having a major impact on the international and European aviation industry. Under the EU rules, Member States can employ various necessary measures to contain the spread of disease, such as suspending flights from other EU Member States. The criteria for deciding what measures to take should be coordinated across the EU. In particular, it is crucial to maintain transport connections needed to provide the health emergency response.
The European Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have published several guidance documents. Expert Guide is related to health and safety during flights for competent authorities, airports, airlines and their crews regarding the coronavirus outbreak. These non-legally binding recommendations on how to detect and manage sick passengers in airplanes and airports. Find here EASA Regulations for Flights-Airports-Airlines operations to fight COVID-19
Preventing “ghosts flights” and ensuring flexibility for airlines
In order to help ease the impact of the outbreak, the European Commission rapidly put forward targeted legislation to temporarily alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations under EU law. European Parliament and the Council of the EU approved this amendment to the EU Slot Regulation. It will enter into force on 1 April 2020.
Cargo deliveries by air remain crucial for Europe. The European Commission has therefore issued guidance on 26 March 2020 for the continued support of air cargo operations. The measures include inviting Member States to grant temporary traffic rights for additional cargo operations from outside the EU, if restrictions would normally apply. Member States should also temporarily remove night curfews and/or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations. They will also enable the use of passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations if necessary. Aircrew flying the aircraft should be exempted from travel restrictions if they do not show symptoms of a coronavirus infection.
Any restrictions incompatible with EU laws must be lifted. The continuation of supply chains via air, especially of highly critical medical supplies, is in the common interest of all. These exceptional measures will be temporary for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
As 75% of EU trade and 30% of all goods within the EU are transported by sea, the continuation of maritime transport is vital. Since the coronavirus pandemic first took hold, many have found themselves trapped on board, from cruise ship passengers to cargo vessel crew.
The European Commission issued guidelines to support these individuals, providing recommendations on health, repatriation and travel arrangements. They also call on Member States to allow crew changes and create a network of ports where they can take place without delays.