After weeks of speculation, on the reopening or not of Europe’s borders to tourists on June 15, there is both good and bad news. First that the EU’s external borders will now stay closed beyond the possible June 15 end date.
The Europe travel ban, in place since March 17, will now be extended another two weeks. This rules out all non-essential travel by foreign nationals into Europe for another fortnight at least. The ban applies to 30 countries: 26 who belong to the EU, plus four Schengen members: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. British travellers are exempt from the ban, but face a two week quarantine in some countries. (In a kind of tit for tat for the U.K. quarantine).
The EU’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told journalists on Friday that the decision to renew the travel ban was pretty much unanimous. “Almost all member states” supported the idea of a “further, much shorter prolongation.”
The good news is, that there is an end in sight to Europe’s travel ban. Johansson said the countries had agreed to a “gradual and strictly coordinated lifting” of the restriction from July. That won’t necessarily happen in one fell swoop from July 1, but the green light for a restart to international tourism appears to be there. The decisions came during a video conference involving the EU’s 27 home affairs ministers.
By the end of June, most internal border controls within the bloc would have tumbled Johansson said. In line with EU plans to open up the countries to summer tourism. Many countries from Austria to Croatia are already lifting their land checks on neighbors.
The likelihood of Europe’s external borders staying shut after June 15 was hinted at recently by the French minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian. So the writing was on the wall to an extent, given he is not someone to mince his words.
This time the travel ban has only been extended for a fortnight rather than 30 days, as on two previous occasions. That too is a positive sign of things winding down, as the Covid-19 crisis in Europe and elsewhere improves dramatically.
It’s not yet known what screening or other procedures travelers may face on arriving in Europe once the travel ban lifts. That may well happen at a national level, as several countries from Greece to Spain and Portugal get ready to welcome international tourists from July. Italy too seems to be edging that way.
The curb on non-essential travel has blocked entry to much of the continent for three months. Fortress Europe has been off-limits to all tourists and most foreigners throughout these unprecedented times. Even Europeans in the usually border-free Schengen zone have seen their travel freedoms among member countries whittled away. But now, as Europeans’ fundamental right to free movement slowly returns, there’s also light at the end of the tunnel for mid-summer travels in Europe for all.
All that remains to be seen from then, is when Donald Trump will lift his travel restrictions on Europe arrivals–as promised.