European Commission publishes criteria for reopening borders for third countries

19:58, 11 June 2020
World
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REUTERS

The decision to lift restrictions for a specific country should be based on the epidemiological situation and coronavirus response in that country, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and whether or not that country has lifted travel restrictions towards the EU, the European Commission said on its website on June 11.

"Restrictions should be lifted first with countries whose epidemiological situation is similar to the EU average and where sufficient capabilities to deal with the virus are in place. Restrictions should remain in place for countries whose situation is worse than in the EU," it said.

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Given that the health situation in certain third countries remains critical, the Commission does not propose a general lifting of the travel restriction at this stage. The restriction should be lifted for countries selected together by Member States, based on a set of principles and objective criteria including the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations, taking into account data from relevant sources such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization.

Key criteria to be assessed in relation to a third country, based on available data from the country concerned, the ECDC and other sources, include: the number of new infections per 100,000 population; trend in new infection rate; and the country's overall response to COVID-19, taking into account available information on aspects such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment, and reporting.

A precondition to lifting travel restrictions is the ability to ensure that containment measures, such as physical distancing, will be respected throughout a journey, from origin to destination, including during any possible transit via high-risk areas.

Another criterion is reciprocity and travel advice. Many third countries have also introduced travel restrictions to citizens coming from the EU. In order to have an equal treatment for EU citizens, the third country should also lift travel restrictions towards the EU in order to have the same or comparable travel arrangements with the EU. This should apply to all EU and Schengen States; it cannot be applied selectively.

Travel advice issued by Member States regarding the third country concerned should be taken into account, given that the reciprocal lifting of travel restrictions will likely lead to an increase of travel from the EU to the third country concerned. The epidemiological situation in the third country should be stable enough to exclude, with sufficient certainty, a large-scale repatriation of stranded citizens over the coming months.

The checklist is one more criterion, its purpose is to find common ground between Member States, and therefore a common approach within the EU+ area, with regard to the assessment whether the situation in a third country and measures taken to fight the virus are sufficient to lift the travel restriction on non-essential travel into the EU+ area.

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