Today the Commission issued a press release to recommending to Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to lift internal border controls by 15 June 2020 and to prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU until 30 June 2020, and sets out an approach to progressively lifting the restriction afterwards.
The travel restriction should be lifted for countries selected together by Member States, based on 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.
In line with the proposed checklist, the Commission also recommends to lift travel restrictions for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia as of 1 July, given that 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. For countries towards which the restriction remains in place, the Commission proposes to enlarge the categories of permitted travellers to include, for instance, international students.
The Commission is also issuing guidance to Member States to ensure that the resumption of visa operations abroad is well coordinated with the gradual lifting of the travel restrictions. In order to ensure a harmonised approach, consulates should simultaneously resume operations in each location and through full implementation of EU visa rules, ensuring good communication towards the public.
The guidance also covers hygiene measures and precautions for receiving visa applicants and gives indications in case Member State requires health checks. When necessary, such health checks should take place at the time of travel or shortly before, rather than when applying for a visa; and should apply to all travellers from a given location irrespective of their nationality or visa status.
The Commission invited Heads of State or Government on 16 March 2020 to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for an initial period of 30 days, subsequently extending it twice until 15 June.
The travel restriction, as well as today’s invitation to prolong it until 30 June, applies to 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.
Nationals of 105 countries are required to obtain a visa before travelling to the EU. Visa applications can usually be submitted at Member States’ consulates in almost all non-EU countries around the world. The EU’s visa policy for short stays is applied fully by 26 Schengen Member States and, in normal times, results in 15 million visas being issued each year.