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Europe to Open External Borders to Tourists Starting July 1

The European Commission is recommending the lifting of restrictions on non-essential travel across the European Union’s (E.U.) external borders, beginning July 1. That means that, for the first time in four months, international visitors—not just those inside the E.U. bloc—will be able to start vacationing in Europe.

But, lifting the blanket ban on foreign tourism doesn’t necessarily mean that E.U. countries will be welcoming everyone equally. At the outset, travelers from high-risk areas, including the United States, may not be permitted entry. The current expectation is that travelers from low-risk countries will be the first green-lit for entry into Europe, as the COVID-19 infection rate wanes.

European Commission Vice President, Josep Borrell, expressly encouraged more of "a gradual and partial lifting" of the ban during today’s press briefing.

Extending the current ban through the end of June was a move intended, “to prepare for a gradual opening thereafter,” said Terezija Gras, Croatian State Secretary for European and International Affairs. After member countries begin dissolving their own internal borders on June 15, the two-week window is meant to provide a little time to readjust to relaxed practices. Remember, when COVID-19 gripped the continent, the land and air borders between nations in the normally passport-free Schengen zone were slammed shut.


Now, at last, the time is coming to return to some semblance of normalcy. Still, the process should not be rushed, said Gras. “This reopening to travelers from countries outside the Schengen area and the E.U. must be done in a coordinated, proportionate and non-discriminatory manner,” she said.

Ultimately, the decisions about whom to allow through their individual borders will rest with the E.U.’s constituents, albeit based upon guidance from the Brussels-based European Commission. Borrell explained that nations are working together to devise a unilateral approach, which factors in certain shared “criteria” so that their policies will, “be based on a common, coordinated approach.”

But, according to France 24, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson stated last week that not all E.U. countries are in agreement about the shared criteria for reopening themselves to the rest of the world, and some seem to be in more of a hurry than others.

By initially turning away high-risk travelers, the Commission presumably aims to alleviate concerns held out by some countries in the Union, including most of the Nordic members, which haven’t yet shown an interest in allowing entry to any except their immediate neighbors. The exception being Iceland, which is welcoming all Europeans from June 15 and is ready to test all inbound travelers for coronavirus, so they might avoid having to quarantine.

Reportedly, the Commission is set to release a detailed blueprint for E.U. border reopenings sometime later this week.

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