Τhe European Commission on Wednesday invited Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU from third nations until May 15.
EU Member States and non-EU Schengen countries had agreed to implement the travel restriction on March 17.
According to the Commission, the experience of Member States and other countries exposed to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic shows the measures applied to fight the spread of the virus require more than 30 days to be effective. The Commission also calls for a coordinated approach to the prolongation, as “action at the external borders can only be effective if implemented by all EU and Schengen States at all borders, with the same end date and in a uniform manner”.
The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies to the “EU+ area”, which 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.
The Commission said its assessment of the current situation points to a continued rise in the number of new cases and deaths across the EU, as well as to the progression of the pandemic outside of the EU, including in countries from where millions of people usually travel to the EU every year. In this context, according to the Commission, prolonging the travel restriction is necessary to reduce the risk of the disease spreading further.
“The current situation compels us to call for a prolongation of the restriction on non-essential travel to the EU,” Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said.
Since the implementation of the travel restriction in the second half of March, air passenger traffic has been almost reduced to zero, with the remaining flights being mainly limited to cargo transport and repatriation. A similar trend of passenger traffic can be seen in other modes of transport, such as in ferry, coach and rail transport.
“While coordinated action is key at the external borders, we also need to work together at the internal borders to make sure our internal market continues to function properly, and that vital products such as food, medicines and protective equipment can reach their destination without delay,” Johansson said.
It is reminded that the travel restriction does not apply to EU citizens, citizens of non-EU Schengen countries and their family members, and non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU for the purpose of returning home.