How The European Union Is Lifting Travel Restrictions

How The European Union Is Lifting Travel Restrictions


The European Union has today officially revealed plans to open external borders as of tomorrow, which is the start of gradually lifting travel restrictions. The catch is that the EU is being very restrictive with who they’re letting in, and that means Americans will be banned for quite some time (as we were expecting).

Who is allowed into the European Union?

The European Council has today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU (these recommendations also apply to Schengen associated countries, including Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).

Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, travel restrictions should be lifted for residents of the following countries as of July 1, 2020:

  • Algeria
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • Serbia
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Uruguay
  • China, subject to reciprocity

On top of that, residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican, should be considered EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.

Are these restrictions structured correctly?

As you can see, these restrictions are based on residency. Personally I don’t think that’s the ideal way to go about any travel restrictions:

  • This means a resident of Serbia who has been in the US for the past couple of months can enter the EU
  • This means a resident of the United States who has been in Serbia for the past couple of months can’t enter the EU

I understand there’s something to be said for creating restrictions that are simple and easy to follow, but it still seems to me like these restrictions should be based around where people have been in the past couple of weeks, rather than residency.

Who is excluded from these recommendations?

The above travel restrictions are based on what country you’re a resident of, though the following categories of people are exempted from restrictions:

  • EU citizens and their family members (does anyone know how exactly family members are defined for these purposes, because I haven’t been able to figure that out?)
  • Long-term EU residents and their family members
  • Travelers with an essential function or need

The country list will be reviewed every two weeks

While travel restrictions are initially being lifted for 14-15 countries, the idea is for that list to be updated every two weeks.

In order for countries to not be on the list of banned countries, they should meet the following criteria:

  • Number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average
  • Stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days
  • Overall response to COVID-19 taking into account available information, including on aspects such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, as well as the reliability of the information and, if needed, the total average score for International Health Regulations (IHR)
  • Reciprocity should also be taken into account regularly and on a case-by-case basis

Individual countries don’t have to follow recommendations

While the announcement today from the European Union is final, it’s important to understand that this is merely a recommendation for member countries. That’s to say that individual countries can still choose to implement whatever rules they’d like in light of these recommendations.

In other words, individual countries can choose to welcome in visitors from other countries as well. The challenge here is that if a country decides not to go along with the EU recommendations, there will be internal border controls, which only complicates things further.

While countries could choose not to follow these recommendations, odds are good that for the sake of simplicity they’ll mostly go along with it. This definitely gets in the way of the plans some countries — like Greece and Iceland — had for a summer tourist season.

Bottom line

It’s a step in the right direction to see the European Union lifting travel restrictions. Initially only residents of 14-15 countries will be allowed in the European Union. That list will be reviewed every two weeks based on the coronavirus situation in other countries.

I’m happy to see the European Union start to open borders, because it creates a framework by which we will see residents of more countries allowed in. However, based on the EU’s criteria, I have a hard time imagining Americans will be allowed in anytime soon…


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