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EU proposes ‘progressive and partial’ reopening of external borders in July

The EU's external borders have been effectively closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic but the European Commission is set to announce a plan for a "progressive and partial" reopening of them from July 1st.

EU proposes 'progressive and partial' reopening of external borders in July
AFP

In the coming days the European Commission will publish proposals for an easing of its external border restrictions from July 1st, the commission's vice-president Josep Borrell announced on Wednesday.

Borrell explained the EU's plan was to lift restrictions with certain countries whilst taking into account “a certain number of principles and criteria” and basing the move on “a common approach” between member states.

Further details on which countries will be included in the move to lift restrictions will be made clearer when the proposals are published. 

The EU along with Schengen area countries like Switzerland and Norway closed their borders for any non-essential travel from outside Europe in mid-March. The restrictions are currently set to stay in place until June 15th, but will likely be extended until the end of the month.

EU officials have repeatedly stressed that restoring frictionless travel within Europe was their priority before opening up travel from outside Europe.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commission for Home Affairs, said recently: “Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it.

“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.”

The EU commission can only propose a way forward with the final decision on reopening external borders resting with member states. Johansson has suggested member states were not all in agreement on how the external borders should be reopened and what conditions should apply.

Greece, which relies heavily on tourism for its economy has already announced plans to reopen travel links to certain non-EU countries such as Australia and China on June 15th.

EU countries have been steadily reopening borders in recent days or making announcements when border restrictions will be dropped.

The majority of EU and Schengen countries have announced plans or a desire to reopen borders for European travel on June 15th.

On Wednesday Austria announced its border with Italy would reopen on June 16th, whilst Switzerland has made similar plans in recent days.

What is essential travel?

The EU's definition of essential travel is stricter than many countries' individual restrictions and does not contain any exemption for visits for family reasons.

People who can travel into the European bloc include 

  • Citizens of an EU country
  • Non EU citizens who are permanent residents of an EU country and need to come home
  • Healthcare workers engaged in crucial work on the coronavirus crisis
  • Frontier workers and in some circumstances seasonal workers
  • Delivery drivers

 

 

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EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Two major changes that were due to come into force in 2022 for travellers entering the EU - an enhanced passport scanning system and the introduction of a €7 visa for tourists - have been delayed for a year.

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Although both the EES and ETIAS schemes are still due to be introduced in the European Commission has pushed back the start dates for both until 2023.

It comes amid a chaotic summer for travel in Europe, with airports struggling with staff shortages and strikes while some crossings from the UK to France have been hit by long delays as extra post-Brexit checks are performed during the peak holiday season. 

The two separate changes to travel in the EU and Schengen zone were originally due to come into effect in 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic. Now the EES system is expected to come into effect in May 2023, while ETIAS will come into effect in November 2023. 

The EES – Entry and Exit System – is essentially enhanced passport scanning at the EU’s borders and means passports will not only be checked for ID and security, but also for entry and exit dates, in effect tightening up enforcement of the ’90 day rule’ that limits the amount of time non-EU citizens can spend in the Bloc without having a visa.

It will not affect non-EU citizens who live in an EU country with a residency permit or visa.

There have been concerns that the longer checks will make transiting the EU’s external borders slower, a particular problem at the UK port of Dover, where the infrastructure is already struggling to cope with enhanced post-Brexit checks of people travelling to France.

You can read a full explanation of EES, what it is and who is affects HERE.

The ETIAS system will apply to all non-EU visitors to an EU country – eg tourists, second-home owners, those making family visits and people doing short-term work.

It will involve visitors registering in advance for a visa and paying a €7 fee. The visa will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips – essentially the system is very similar to the ESTA visa required for visitors to the USA. 

Residents of an EU country who have a residency card or visa will not need one.

You can read the full details on ETIAS, how it works and who it affects HERE.

Both systems will apply only to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country – for example Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians – and will be used only at external EU/Schengen borders, so it won’t be required when travelling between France and Germany, for example. 

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