EU expecting to lift internal border controls by the end of June

Europe: The European Union has said it is planning to lift all internal border controls by the end of the month, and allow travel to and from other countries from outside of the bloc by the end of July, in a timely boost to holidaymakers’ vacation plans this summer.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday following a video call with other European interior ministers, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said most governments in the Union would be lifting internal border restrictions by next Monday [15 June], while others would follow suit later in the month.

In the same conference call, the 27 ministers approved an extension of the ban on non-essential travel by foreign nationals into the EU’s border-free travel zone to 1 July. The travel ban will apply to all countries that are not members of the European Union, bar Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which is in the transitional phase for its exit from the bloc state.

However, British travellers returning from overseas and foreign travellers entering the UK will now to self-isolate under recently-introduced quarantine rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19, a policy that is being challenged by national airlines who say it will ward people off going abroad this summer.

Swedish politician Johansson told journalists on the call that “almost all member states” had expressed “a strong preference for a further but short prolongation” of the ban, and that countries had agreed to a “gradual and strictly coordinated lifting” of internal restrictions by early or mid-July.

The EU’s decision to lift border controls in the near future will come as welcome news for the global travel and tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the restrictions on movement and traveller caution since the coronavirus outbreak emerged. It is hoped that millions of Europeans will now be able to start planning ahead for their summer holidays as the virus slowly dissipates across the continent, whether it is a resumption of some international travel or a resurrection of domestic travel and staycations.

The likes of Spain and Italy’s leaders are encouraging the EU to imminently implement safety protocols on transport across Europe’s Schengen Area, where movement of people is unrestricted and free across 26 European countries, as they seek to open up their tourism businesses once again.

Meanwhile, the UK, like Sweden, is also subject to reciprocal border measures from abroad, given it has the highest official death toll recorded in Europe from the coronavirus. Countries such as France and Spain have already made it mandatory for travellers arriving from Britain to go into a fortnight’s quarantine, while Germany is urging nationals not to make the trip over to the UK for the foreseeable future.

As uncertainty and caution grow in the aftermath of this pandemic, domestic staycation bookings are on the rise as families and groups seek escapes in rural getaways. Airbnb is one of the companies seeing this swell in reservations, reporting that it had taken more bookings for stays in the United States between 17 May 17 and 3 June than it had during the same timeframe a year ago.