The European Commission on Wednesday proposed for EU member states to take a gradual approach to lifting travel restrictions, comprised of three phases, and based on specific criteria.
“We need to carefully reopen borders within Europe. So we’ve adopted guidance for Member States on a gradual, coordinated lifting of restrictions on free movement in Europe,” European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday during the presentation of the EU’s proposed Tourism and Transport Package to help member states cope in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As underlined by the Commission’s recommendation, the lifting of travel restrictions and internal border controls must be based on the careful consideration of the epidemiological situation across Europe and in individual Member States.
“This is not going to be a normal summer… But when we all work together and do our part, in the ways that the Commission is setting out today, we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home – or a completely lost season for Europe’s tourist industry,” Vestager said.
Criteria and a phased approach
Measures to be taken at national level to gradually lift travel restrictions should take into consideration (a) the assessment of approximation of epidemiological situations in the Member States combined with (b) the necessity to apply containment measures, including physical distancing while building and maintaining trust in societies, and (c) proportionality, that is, comparing the benefits of maintaining blanket restrictions with the economic and social considerations, including the impact on EU cross-border labour mobility and trade.
“These criteria will allow a phased, flexible and coordinated approach towards lifting controls and travel restrictions,” the Commission’s recommendation says.
According to the Commission’s recommendation, it is essential to ensure that restrictions are lifted in a nondiscriminatory way (based on the principle of non-discrimination) and that the phases proposed are implemented in a coordinated way.
“It should also be flexible, including the possibility to reintroduce certain measures if the epidemiological situation requires, or indeed to allow for a more accelerated lifting of measures if the situation permits. The timing of the process will also be influenced by citizens’ compliance with physical distancing measures. All phases should be based on the assessment of an evolving situation and constant monitoring of the criteria.”
In phase 0, the current situation, several travel restrictions are in place for non-essential travel. Member States should still allow workers, in particular transport, frontier, posted and seasonal workers, and service providers to cross borders and have unhindered access to their place of work- especially for essential services and passage of goods.
In phase 1, travel restrictions and border controls should be gradually lifted throughout the EU starting between regions, areas and Member States with a positively evolving and sufficiently similar epidemiological situation. During this phase, smooth transit should be facilitated for professional and for personal reasons as well as for tourism.
During phase 2, all coronavirus related restrictions and controls at the internal borders should be lifted, while keeping the necessary health measures in place. Travel for all purposes should be permitted throughout the Union.
“Going from Phase 0 which is the current state of play to the next stages should be done in a flexible manner, if necessary taking a step back in case the epidemiological situation worsens,” the Commission’s recommendation underlines.
The Commission’s recommendation towards a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal borders, can be downloaded below: