• The first point I would like to make is about the Schengen area. And that is that the current situation gives real meaning to the phrase;

‘you don't know what you've got until it's gone’.

  • Europeans consider freedom of movement one of their most cherished rights, and Schengen is one of our greatest achievements.   We want to restore freedom of movement and the integrity of Schengen and allow Europeans to travel again. But we need to learn how we may travel in a safe way.
  • We outline three critical criteria (in this communication today). First, of course, the epidemiological situation. The primary condition for lifting travel restrictions and border controls is the spread of the virus and the capacity of the health care system. Secondly the containment measures, including physical distancing measures along with health security requirements for travel and hospitality and thirdly economic and social considerations.  
  • The process will be structured in three phases, taking into account these three criteria.
  • Member States are now in Phase 0. In Phase 1, we plan to lift travel restrictions and border controls in a gradual way. Ideally, this should cover the whole Union, but where this is not possible a start should be made by allowing travel between regions, areas and Member States who assess their health situation is evolving in a positive way.
  • In particular, where a Member State decides to lift its restrictions for movement to and from another Member State, or as regards regions or areas of either such Member State, this must apply, without discrimination, to all EU citizens and to all residents of that Member State regardless of their nationality, and should apply to all parts of the Union in a similar epidemiological situation
  • Phase 2 will then see a general lifting of restrictions and controls at the internal borders, as the situation improves. Necessary health measures such as personal hygiene and social distancing will remain in place, with ongoing information sharing required.
  • The phases proposed in this Communication should be implemented in a coordinated and flexible way. The timing of the process will also be influenced by peoples’ compliance with social distancing measures. Our individual sense of responsibility is critical. ‘United against coronavirus’ also means each of us doing our part.
  • All phases should be based on the assessment of the evolving situation and constant monitoring of the criteria. Member States and the Commission will need to work closely together.
  • Indeed, over the last 8 weeks I have held 9 video meetings with Member States’ Interior Ministers, discussed many proposals, including this one.
  • We are currently enduring not just the economic and social cost of border controls but also the absence of our basic human need to reach out to loved ones.
  • Our challenge now is how to help move things forward, on internal border controls and restrictions. I will work hand-in-hand with Commissioner Kyriakides, Valean and other Commissioners to get back to normality.