European Commission: Common Approach to Opening Our Borders

After months of ununified approaches to containing COVID-19 in the EU and Schengen Area by individual Member States, the European Commission has finally passed a plan that will create a uniform approach by all Member States regarding free movement and travel within the Schengen Area.

The Commission’s proposal sets four key areas for cooperation between Member States, according to the report published by the Commission:

  1. Common criteria and thresholds for Member States when deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions;
  2. Mapping of common criteria using an agreed colour code;
  3. A common framework for measures applied to travellers from high-risk areas;
  4. Clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions

Common Criteria for Member States to determine the necessity of travel restrictions

  • The total number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in a given geographical area within a 14-day period.
  • The percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests carried out in the given geographical area during a seven-day period.
  • The total number of COVID-19 tests carried out per 100,000 people in a given geographical area during a seven-day period.

Member States should be reporting the above information weekly to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as well as at the regional level.

The Commission’s proposal states that Member States should not restrict people moving between their country and another Member State if:

  • The total number of newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 within a given geographical area is equal to or less than 50 per 100,000 residents within a 14-day period.
  • OR, there is less than 3% positive diagnoses of COVID-19 tests within a given geographical area.

A common color-code

The Commission is proposing that all Member States use a common color code to simplify the identification of countries that might not be safe for people to enter from.

The color code is as follows:

  • “Green for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 25 during a 14-day period AND the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is less than 3%;
  • Orange for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 50 during a 14-day period BUT the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is 3% or more OR the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is between 25 and 150 BUT the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is less than 3%;
  • Red for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 50 during a 14-day period AND the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is 3% or more OR the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 150 per 100 000 people during a 14-day period;
  • Grey if there is insufficient information available to assess the criteria proposed by the Commission OR the number of COVID-19 tests carried out per 100 000 people is less than 250.”

A Common approach to handling travelers from high-risk areas.

The Commission states that Member States should not limit the movement of nationals or travelers coming from other Member States.

However, should an individual Member State introduce restrictions to free movement based on their “own decision-making processes” they could require that “persons travelling from an area classified as ‘red’ or ‘grey’ to either undergo quarantine OR undergo a COVID-19 test after arrival – COVID-19 testing being the preferred option.”

Clear and timely information to the public

Member States, according to the Commission’s proposal, should report details of upcoming travel restrictions or the lifting of travel restrictions to other Member States and the Commission on a weekly basis.

Information should also be made available on the Re-Open EU website.

To view the Re-Open EU website and check for weekly updates on travel information, follow this link.

It is unclear whether all Member States will follow the Commission’s guidelines, as they are not completely enforceable.

Related information

Schengen Visa Embassy Links

How to submit a Schengen Visa Application

Where can I complete my Schengen Visa form? Schengen-Visa.com provides an online Schengen Application form to PDF converter tool for applicants who are unable to