Communication from the Commission (COVID-19) guidance on the implementation of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, on the facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens, and on the effects on visa policyGuidance on the implementation of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, on the facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens, and on the effects on visa policy
The coronavirus has spread across the globe and triggered different measures to limit the pace of contagion. On 10 March 2020, the Heads of State or Government emphasised the need for a joint European approach and a close coordination with the European Commission. In particular, Health Ministers and Interior Ministers were invited to consult daily to ensure proper coordination and aim for common European guidance.
The scale of the global threat faced today underlines the imperative need for EU coordination, to maximise the potential impact of measures taken at the national level.
It is against this backdrop that on 16 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council, calling for a temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU in view of COVID- 19 (‘the Communication’). It sought to ensure that action taken at the EU’s external borders was consistent and appropriate.
The Communication complements the Guidelines of the Commission for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services (‘the Guidelines’) whose objective is to protect citizens’ health, ensure the appropriate treatment of people whose travel is essential, and make sure essential goods and services remain available inside the EU.
The Communication underlined that the EU’s external border should act as a security perimeter and that Member States and Schengen Associated Countries should restrict any non-essential travelling from third countries into the EU+ area. It made clear that they are allowed to refuse entry at the external borders to ‘non-resident third-country nationals where they present relevant symptoms or have been particularly exposed to risk of infection and are considered to be a threat to public health’.
On 17 March 2020, the Heads of State or Government endorsed the call to reinforce the external borders by applying a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days, based on the approach proposed by the Commission. The Heads of State or Government also endorsed the Guidelines on border management.
Based on the national measures adopted to assure such coordinated action at the external borders of the EU, border guards should – in line with the Commission’s Communication – refuse entry to all those third-country nationals whose travelling is not considered to be essential in the current circumstances.
In order to assist this action at the external border, the European Commission has prepared this guidance (the Guidance) based on input from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), with the support of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and Europol.
The Guidance also follows up on the joint statement of the Members of the European Council of 26 March 2020 which emphasised the need to step up efforts to ensure that EU citizens who are stranded in third countries who want to go home can do so.
The Guidance provides advice and practical instructions to implement measures adopted by the Member States (6) and Schengen Associated Countries following the Communication.
In particular, it provides guidance as regards:
— The introduction of temporary travel restriction applying to all non-essential travel from third countries to the EU+ area;
— The facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens and their family members stranded in third countries;
— Minimum service in consulates for processing visa applications; and
— Dealing with overstay caused by travel restrictions, including for visa-waived third country nationals.
Guidance on the implementation of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, on the facilitation of transit arrangements for the repatriation of EU citizens, and on the effects on visa policy (675.55 ko)