EU+Travel Restrictions in Force for Another 30 Days

During the past month, the EU+ area saw a continuous rise in the number of new cases and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the pandemic has worsened since March 16, 2020 when the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council on a ‘Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU’ (“Communication”) was adopted, as we informed you (here).  The 30-day ban, temporarily restricting all non-essential travel from third countries to the EU, is to expire in just a few days, considering that all Member States (including the Schengen Associated States) have adopted national decisions implementing the Communication by March 20, 2020.

In light of the above, the European Commission (“EC”) has invited the Schengen Member States and the Schengen Associated States to prolong the travel restriction on non-essential travel from third countries into the EU+ area by another 30 days, i.e. until on May 15, 2020.

 The EC envisioned the extended restriction to be the same on the same terms as the one set out in the EC’s Communication.  By restricting all non-essential travel to the EU, the EC ensures that the rights of the EU citizens are not infringed by this restriction.  Therefore, EU citizens and citizens of the Schengen Associated States, as well as their family members and third-country nationals legally residing in the EU territory, are all exempt from these travel restrictions if they are returning to their homes. Indeed, strictly speaking, we can argue that this kind of travel does not represent “an exemption” seeing that their travel can be considered as “essential”, considering that these people are traveling back to their homes.

Almost every decision taken by the EC in the past month or so was an important step or measure that pushed the Member States to reduce the spread of the pandemic and ensure an adequate response to healthcare needs created by the new situation.  With these objectives in mind, there has been a drastic reduction in global travel (as large as a 100% drop in the case of cruise lines) and some Member States even reintroduced internal border control, all with the goal of reducing social interactions to the minimum. On the other hand, these measures inevitably impact supply chains for vital products, i.e. food, medicines, and personal protective equipment, resulting in these products either not reaching their destination or doing so with a significant delay. After numerous consultations with the Member States, the EC has published guidance to ensure the formation of an unfractured internal market within the EU by setting up “green lanes” to the greatest possible extent at external borders, by facilitating air cargo and guaranteeing free movement of workers.

As long as there is a possibility of millions of people traveling to and from the EU territory annually, and with the pandemic still not fully under control at the global level, both increasing the risk of community transmission within the EU Member States, travel restrictions will be in place at least until May 15, 2020, with the possibility of another extension of this measure depending on further developments regarding the pandemic.

 

For more information, please contact us via covid19@geciclaw.com.