EU to keep external borders closed until at least mid-June

Commission says ban should be extended to 15 June

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 08 May 2020 17:43 BST
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A Bulgarian border policeman stands in front of a border checkpoint at the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing point between Bulgaria and Turkey
A Bulgarian border policeman stands in front of a border checkpoint at the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing point between Bulgaria and Turkey

EU member states should keep the union's external border closed to all but essential travel until at least mid-June, the European Commission has said.

On Friday the EU's executive invited national leaders to extend the travel ban, which is already in effect, by another 30 days in light of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

While it will be up to individual national governments to take part, states in the EU's passportless Schengen Area have so far taken a coordinated approach to closing Europe's borders. Many have also thrown up restrictions on crossing into other European countries, a policy that is looked on less favourably in Brussels.

“The overall objective of limiting the spread of coronavirus via reduced social interaction remains," said Margaritis Schinas, vice-president for Promoting our European Way of Life.

"Despite progress in many European countries, the situation worldwide is very fragile. It is imperative that any action taken is gradual, with different measures being lifted in different phases."

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson added: “We need a phased and coordinated approach. Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it. Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel.”

The travel current ban agreed by EU leaders continues until 15 May, with the proposed extension until 15 June. The restrictions do not apply to EU citizens, citizens of non-EU Schengen countries and their family members, and non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU for the purpose of returning home.

There are also a range of exemptions including healthcare workers, researchers and experts helping to fight Covid-19, as well as those transporting freight. Frontier workers and seasonal agricultural workers from outside the EU are also unaffected.

The ban does not affect the UK because Britain is currently in its Brexit transition period where it is treated like an EU member state.

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