Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union (EU) said on Friday it may reopen its external borders as of early July.
The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who after a meeting with her counterparts, said most of them support extending by two more weeks the current travel ban, set to end on June 15. Many of them were also interested in coordinating the lifting of measures on July 1.
However, next week the European Commission will propose detailed guidelines on lifting restrictions for the entry of non-EU citizens.
The decision on ending border controls between EU countries, more specifically the Schengen area, is a precondition for allowing travel from outside the union. Most EU countries will have the restrictions lifted by June 15, while others will follow by the end of the month.
Italy is something of an exception in the Schengen area. On Wednesday it opened its borders to European tourists. The stakes are high for Italy. Facing its deepest recession since World War II, the country urgently needs tourism to pick up. As a result Italy has lobbied fellow EU members to re-establish free movement around the block. Appeals by Rome have fallen on deaf ears in Switzerland and Austria. Fearing a resurgence of the coronavirus epidemic, they have kept their borders with Italy shut.
Belgium said it would reopen its borders for EU members, the United Kingdom as well as four other countries in the Schengen Area, namely Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, from June 15. Neighbor, the Netherlands announced Wednesday it was relaxing travel warnings for a number of European countries. The Netherlands is no longer discouraging non-essential travel to 12 countries, including Germany, Belgium and Italy.
France is in favor of Europe’s internal borders reopening from June 15.
Keen to open its tourism industry, Greece has authorized its two main airports, in Athens and Thessaloniki, to welcome visitors from 29 countries from June 15. The list is largely made up of EU members, Greece’s top customers, including France, Spain, Italy and the UK.
European tourists wanting to go on holidays in Spain will have to wait until July 1. The country will reopen its borders with France and Portugal then – and not on June 22 as it had been indicated previously.