The European Union has unveiled plans to open up their external borders as of today as a part of a plan to gradually lift the EU travel restrictions. As a group of countries working in tandem, the EU recommendations affect the individual country’s decision making on residents of which external countries will be allowed for non-essential travel into the EU.
The criteria to determine the non-EU countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover, in particular, the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, as well as economic and social considerations. They are applied cumulatively in the decisionmaking.
Regarding the epidemiological situation, the Non-EU countries listed should meet the following criteria, in particular:
- number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average (as it stood on June 15, 2020)
- a 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). Information provided by EU delegations on these aspects should also be taken into account.
Reciprocity was also taken into account regularly and on a case-by-case basis. This list is expected to be reviewed every two weeks.
It is no surprise then that residents of USA and India, amongst most countries in the world, were left out of the mix. While the EU is a hugely popular travel spot for the summers, just going by the principle of reciprocity itself, these countries are left out. But on a broader level, they both have a large number of cases and have not been able to put a lid on the spread of the virus yet.
Residents of these countries will be allowed to enter the EU.
As a first step, a list of 15 countries has been drawn up by the EU, whose residents will be allowed into the EU borders.
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
These recommendations apply to Schengen associated countries, such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichenstein. For these recommendations, residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican, should be considered EU residents.
Since these requirements apply to residents, and not citizens, it might mean an Indian passport holder but resident in Japan could enter the EU, but not a Japanese citizen resident in India.
The travel restrictions provided above are based on your country of residency, however, this does not bar the following set of people to come into the EU.
- EU citizens and their family members
- Long-term EU residents and their family members
- Travellers with an essential function or need
Recommendations, not Restrictions
The Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the guidance. They may, in full transparency, lift only progressively travel restrictions towards countries listed.
A Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner, but they could do so in their own right. However, how this will be controlled at the overall border level of each country remains to be seen.
As one of the largest coordinated blocs in the world, and one of the busiest business/travel avenues of the world, it is encouraging to see the EU get ready for a travel life with CoVid-19. The list is subject to change and is planned to be reviewed every couple of weeks. However, for those of you who have a vacation or work trip and are holding on to your hopes, I think it will be a while before India gets on that list!
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