The FINANCIAL — Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted. As stipulated in the Council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed regularly and, as the case may be, updated. Georgia’s still on the updated list, while another country has been dropped after removing Serbia and Montenegro 2 weeks ago.
In the updated list, the Council of the European Union recommends that member states open their borders with Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. The list of safe countries also includes China, but traffic with China will resume only after the country opens its borders to the EU, according to Georgian Public Broadcasting.
Algeria has been removed from the list. The Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation. They may, in full transparency, lift only progressively travel restrictions towards countries listed. A Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.
A Reuters tally of government and World Health Organization data showed the total of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Africa has exceeded 750,000, with Algeria among the worst affected countries on the continent. The list serves as a guideline rather than a rule for the EU’s 27 members and is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea is that no EU country would open up to countries not on the list. However, Italy and Belgium, for example, have held off opening up to any, Reuters wrote.
The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover in particular the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, as well as economic and social considerations. They are applied cumulatively.
Regarding the epidemiological situation, third countries listed should meet the following criteria, in particular:
- number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100 000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average (as it stood on 15 June 2020)
- stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days
- overall response to COVID-19 taking into account available information, including on aspects such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, as well as the reliability of the information and, if needed, the total average score for International Health Regulations (IHR). Information provided by EU delegations on these aspects should also be taken into account.
Reciprocity should also be taken into account regularly and on a case-by-case basis.
For countries where travel restrictions continue to apply, the following categories of people should be exempted from the restrictions:
- EU citizens and their family members
- long-term EU residents and their family members
- travellers with an essential function or need, as listed in the Recommendation.
Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.
This list of third countries should continue to be reviewed regularly and may be further updated by the Council, as the case may be, after close consultations with the Commission and the relevant EU agencies and services following an overall assessment based on the criteria above.
Travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country already listed according to changes in some of the conditions and, as a consequence, in the assessment of the epidemiological situation. If the situation in a listed third country worsens quickly, rapid decision-making should be applied.
On 16 March 2020, the Commission adopted a communication recommending a temporary restriction of all non-essential travel from third countries into the EU. On 30 June the Council adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, including an initial list of countries for which member states should start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders.
Since Georgia’s inclusion on the list of safe countries, and the issuance of the recommendation on the possible reopening of borders to these countries, the Georgian Government has been engaged in active bilateral negotiations with several EU member states Agreements on the unconditional bilateral reopening of borders have already been achieved with Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. Read more.