Baltic States Open Internal Borders While EC Urges Member States to Prolong Travel Ban

European Comission Schengen Visa

The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are planning to open internal borders with each other beginning on 15 May 2020. The means that citizens will be able to move freely between the states for the most part after this date.

The decision comes as the result of the three Member States being very similar to one another in terms of COVID-19 cases. The three governments decided that because the infection threat in each of the countries is similar, there is no reason why people should not be allowed to travel between them with a well-coordinated approach.

“It is important that the abolition of mutual border controls takes place safely and smoothly for the people of the Baltic States. To this end, we must coordinate our activities well,”said Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Internal border checks will remain in place for the time being, however. Travelers will need to bring their documents with them as well as go through document verification procedures at the borders.

The Baltic States are making this decision independently amidst an open invitation from the European Commission for all Member States to extend their travel ban on the entrance of foreign nationals until 15 June 2020.

In a press release published by the EC on 08 May, the EC urges all Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to extend the travel ban for foreigners and non-essential travel.

According to Ylva Johannson, quoted in the release, a “phased and coordinated approach” should be taken when considering reopening Europe and Schengen to foreign nationals.

“We need a phased and coordinated approach. Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it. Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel,” Johannson said.

According to the release, the situation is volatile and thus justifies the extension of the controls.

“While some EU and Schengen Associated States are taking preliminary steps towards easing the measures for fighting the spread of the pandemic, the situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide. This calls for continued measures at the external borders to reduce the risk of the disease spreading through travel to the EU,” the release reads.

The extension of the travel ban for foreign nationals will be the longest one in EU history, marking more than two months of sealing off external borders. The urge for the prolongation of the ban comes as another attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. A definitive answer or date for reopening has still not been decided on.

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