Ok, there is definitely frustration on how the European Commission handled this but let’s hit the top story first – member states of the European Union has decided to keep the external borders closed until at least July 1. But, that’s just the beginning as there is much more to this story.
Europe’s External Borders Staying Closed – For Now
Originally, the closure of Europe’s external borders was to have reopened May 15, then June 15. Now, just 4 days shy of that anticipated opening of the external borders, member states of the European Union have crushed a lot of hopes for summer travel from abroad as that reopening date is kicked to at least July 1.
What Does This Mean for Travel To Europe Now?
Within the EU
Starting June 15, the internal borders throughout Europe will open to other EU countries. This was something strongly encouraged by the Commission today and something that was quite a bit underway in many EU countries. This means that people within the European Union already should be able to move freely about within the EU.
For people in these countries, it could still mean that summer travel is very much a great possibility for them. Of course, the neighboring countries they visit may still have restrictions placed on them, based on their origination, that may include testing or similar but they should be good to go.
From Outside the EU
Now we get to the other part and something that most of the readers here would be included in. For people traveling from outside the EU to Europe (especially from America), the EU is planning on beginning to lift restrictions and controls as of July 1. This does not mean you can book a ticket to Europe for July 2 as it will be based on several factors for people originating in non-EU countries.
- Objective criteria: 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. 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. The Commission proposes a detailed checklist to help Member States reach a common assessment. Decisions on lifting travel restrictions would concern non-EU nationals residing in a specific country (not its nationals).
- Common and coordinated approach: The Commission proposes a coordination mechanism whereby it would support Member States and Schengen Associated States at technical level and facilitate the preparation of a list of countries for which travel restrictions could be lifted. Decisions on lifting restrictions should then be prepared with Member States under the EU’s integrated political crisis response mechanism. Member States should adopt such decisions in a coordinated manner and ensure uniform application across the EU. This will be a dynamic process and the integrated political crisis response mechanism would need to coordinate further updates.
- Flexibility: It will be possible to reintroduce travel restrictions for a specific country if the criteria are no longer met. In addition, Member States can still refuse entry to a non-EU traveller presenting a threat to public health, even coming from a country for which restrictions were lifted.
There are many that are saying that people from the US may not be welcome at all in Europe this summer – or even longer – based on the criteria and recommendations.
Apparently, it may have been Greece that put some pressure on the commission to start lifting restrictions post-July 1 at all. After all, Greece has already gone all-in on “tourist season” opening this coming Monday, June 15. And, they have made it clear that they are welcoming people from all over – with some early restrictions until July 1.
The problem is that, until early July, there are no direct flights from the US to Greece. This means that people that would want to visit Greece would have to go through another European country or (maybe an even better option) fly Turkish and transit through Turkey. But, if they transit through an EU country, the airline may not let them get on the plane from the US in the first place. Or, the country may not let them enter the EU when they arrive.
However, Greece is going ahead with a big welcome weekend to kick off tourist season and they really want it to be known that tourists are welcome. But, will that include Americans? We will find out more this weekend.
Frustrated? Yes, I Know!
Last week the European Commission voted on extending the external border closure yet they waited until late yesterday/today – a mere 4 days before the closure was to expire – to announce it. I realize they may have been trying to compromise with the dissenting votes (likely both Italy and Greece) but this is what they did last month as well.
I know there are many people – not even tourists but family members – that had been ready to enter Europe next week. Now, they have to reshuffle their plans and figure out what they can do since the external borders will stay closed. The EU knew they were going to do it but they waited one week before announcing it. Not only that, but their statement on reopening it makes it clear that they don’t want anyone from any country to feel comfortable planning travel just yet.
Hey, I’m an American and I know my country is having more outbreaks and I totally get that this is a decision that EU member states have every right to make. But, I just wish they would be a little more clear and forthcoming in their announcements – especially when they knew so much in advance what they were going to do.
The external borders to the EU will remain closed until July 1 with similar exceptions to before. After July 1, there will be a slow move to allow more countries to access Europe again – but it is unknown which ones and when. Also, it is pretty clear that many EU countries would rather not have people traveling from the US at all for a while.
While I totally get that and understand that, if this is something they want, I wish they would just come out and say that Americans cannot visit Europe until October 1, for example. Instead, this constant pushing of the dates at the last minute (even when it was known a week ahead of time) is causing many people who had plans to visit family, etc to be left wondering what is going on.
If you had been planning on going to Europe this summer, will these new announcements and changes cause you to skip this year? Or will you wait for the last minute?