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France, Belgium, Greece lift restrictions for EU travel as members chart sundry course

A passenger arrives at the Zaventem International Airport as Belgium eases restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, near Brussels, Belgium, on June 15, 2020.
A passenger arrives at the Zaventem International Airport as Belgium eases restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, near Brussels, Belgium, on June 15, 2020. © François Lenoir, Reuters

As European countries emerge from their coronavirus lockdowns and lift travel restrictions to revive their tourist industries, the EU has been aiming to coordinate the border reopening among its 27 members.

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The bloc has recommended that the member states fully reopen their frontiers with each other on June 15, and many countries are planning to relax controls on that date.

But the border reopenings have been far from harmoniously coordinated.

Early birds... and those that never closed

Italy, which has been among the world's hardest hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, reopened its borders on June 3, lifting all restrictions for travellers from within Europe.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia have also already begun to lift restrictions for foreigners entering their countries but excluded those from nations they deem as not safe -- in many cases that list includes Sweden and the UK.

Poland has reopened its borders to all fellow EU members and the UK from June 13.

Sweden meanwhile never closed its borders to EU countries.

Neither did tiny Luxembourg -- but quickly found all its neighbours closing their borders instead.

EU's mid-June plans

In line with the EU's plans to reopen borders in the bloc by mid-June, Belgium, France and Greece are lifting restrictions on Monday for travel within Europe.

Paris, however, has specified it wants reciprocity and so may impose restrictions on those countries blocking travellers from France.

Greece, on the other hand, has gone further, also allowing travellers from farther afield, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Israel and Lebanon.

Greece hopes tourist areas like the Acropolis will soon come alive again.

Germany is due to end land border checks on June 15, while the Dutch government has announced it would ease warnings against non-essential foreign travel from the same date.

Austria, which has already opened its borders to most of its neighbours, will on June 16 lift travel restrictions with a total of 31 countries -- but has excluded Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The Czech Republic is also allowing free travel with a number of European countries from Monday, but restrictions are still in place with those deemed a risk due to their levels of coronavirus infections.

Hold outs

Spain will only lift travel restrictions on June 21, re-establishing free travel with fellow EU countries.

The land border with Portugal will however remain closed until July 1. Portugal has suffered a much lower death rate than Spain from the coronavirus epidemic.

However, Spain's Balearic Islands will see an earlier contingent of foreign guests when they welcome 11,000 Germans from June 15 in a pilot project for the revival of the crucial tourism sector.

Romania has not yet announced when it will re-open its borders to foreigners without restrictions.

Meanwhile, others are lifting border controls, but are still doing so more gradually.

Denmark opens its borders to Germany, Norway and Iceland for visitors from Monday as long as they can show they plan to stay outside the capital Copenhagen for at least six consecutive nights.

(AFP)

 

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