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EU proposes travel ban on non-EU nationals to be extended till June 15

The European Commission has proposed to Schengen countries and Associate countries on Friday to extend a restriction on nonessential travel, i.e. travel ban on non-EU nationals for another 30 days, until June 15, 2020.

Although several countries are slowly starting to ease restrictions, the situation remains “fragile” across the globe and the bloc must make sure to prevent the coronavirus spreading through travel to the EU, the Commission argued. Its priority is to open borders between EU countries before opening the bloc area to the rest of the world.

According to the European Commission roadmap, first national lockdown measures should be completely lifted to transition to normal life.

The opening of external borders for non-EU citizens will be the last stage of the procedure should they manage to avoid a second outbreak.

Based on the European Commission proposal, it is the member states who need to decide on the extension of travel restrictions.

In a roadmap for the easing of coronavirus restrictions it proposed in April, the Commission said that border checks should be lifted in a phased manner, with easing internal border restrictions taking precedence over opening external borders.

“Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it,” Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said in a statement.

“Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel,” she said.

The Commission first proposed the travel ban on non EU-nationals in mid-March in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Extension of the travel ban for one more month was proposed in April.

Following the proposal, the Greek government extended the travel ban on non-EU nationals until May 18.

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 calls for a continued 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.

Any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond 15 June 2020 would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation, the Commission statement said.

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.

In addition, to limit to the minimum the impact of the restriction on the functioning of our societies, Member States should not apply the restrictions to specific categories of travellers with an essential function or need. Essential staff, such as doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researchers and experts helping to cope with the coronavirus, as well as persons carrying goods, frontier workers and seasonal agricultural workers, should also continue to be allowed to enter the EU.

Greece is working out several plans on conditions to facilitate opening its borders to tourists.

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