Interior ministers yesterday discussed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the area of internal border control and free movement of persons.
As the overall health situation improves, all Member States are in the process of phasing out border controls and fully restoring the free movement of persons restricted by the pandemic.
Most member states have lifted controls at their internal borders and related travel restrictions by June 15, and others will follow by the end of the month. Ministers agreed that the remaining remaining restrictions would be based on objective health criteria, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and that they would continue to coordinate closely under the leadership of the Commission.
Ministers also discussed how long travel restrictions should be maintained in the EU in relation to the entry of third-country nationals and what criteria and measures they can apply after the restrictions are lifted.
They agreed to a unified approach to the phasing out of travel restrictions, which is not expected before July 1st.
Ylva Johansson, EC Commissioner for Home Affairs: Restrictions on EU internal borders lifted by end of June
The European Commission is urging EU member states to abolish all border checks within the EU by the end of June, said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
Border blockades and travel bans due to coronavirus have cost the tourism industry billions of euros in revenue and undermined the idea of a united Europe, Johansson said.
"I think we are approaching a situation where we should abolish all restrictions on internal borders and border controlsJohansson told Euronews in a TV interview.
"I will propose that Member States abolish all border controls as soon as possible. And I think a good date should be the end of June", She said, adding that formally the proposal will be given during the council meeting.
The Commission is trying to ensure that travel restrictions across the EU are lifted in a coordinated manner, and last month unveiled a series of recommendations on how to do so.
“I think sometimes you don’t know what you have until you miss it,” she said. "Citizens really want to return to free movement."
She also added that the epidemiological situation is improving rapidly in many member states and that citizens are adopting social distancing measures as a "new norm" to combat the spread of the virus.
She also pointed to a recent report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, which advises against closing borders. The ECDC has found that it has a significant negative impact on the economy and is effective only in delaying the onset of an epidemic and in isolated regions.
"Therefore, the available evidence does not support the recommendation to close the borders, which will cause significant secondary effects and social and economic disruption in the EU," the report said.
“I think, taking all that into account, in my opinion, now is the time to open up,” Johansson said, adding that currently cross-border travel rules are at least confusing to all tourists.
Italy reopened its borders on Wednesday in a bid to save its tourism industry. Visitors from the EU and Schengen countries will not need to be quarantined upon arrival.
Austria, meanwhile, is reopening its borders to all neighbors except Italy, due to existing concerns about coronavirus infections in Italy.
France intends to open its borders on June 15. Germany also plans to lift the travel warning for European countries from that date, although in some cases it can still advise not to prevent travel.
Finally, Johansson noted that the decision to reopen the borders is still an independent decision of each member state.