Brussels, Jun 5 (efe-epa).- The European Union aims to lift its external border controls from July onward, once the Schengen Area is back up and running first, according to the Commission Friday.
European Commissioner for Interior Affairs Ylva Johansson gave an update following a meeting with her national counterparts from around the EU.
“I personally believe that we will return to a full functioning of the Schengen Area and the freedom of movement of citizens no later than the end of the month of June,” she said.
“I indeed believe that the health and political situations allow for this.
“The next important challenge will be how to proceed with the restrictions at the EU’s external borders,” she continued.
“There was a strong support among member states that we should first open internally.”
She added that member states had also shown support for a short extension to the current travel recommendations issued by Brussels advising against all but essential travel to third party countries, which is due to expire on 15 June.
The gradual opening up of the EU’s internal borders, which were closed to stem the spread of coronavirus, has already started to get underway in central Europe.
Residents of central Europe can from Friday freely travel between Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic without having to take coronavirus tests or self-quarantine once they have reached the destination.
The lifting of travel restrictions also partially applies to Germany, although authorities there still require those crossing from the Czech Republic to take a Covid-19 test, a measure not enforced by Czech border control.
The reopening of borders between the nations comes following a series of regional and bilateral agreements. The countries in question weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than many of their Western European counterparts.
Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said on Facebook that “the strict measures in place in recent weeks and months had brought the epidemic under control and maintained a relatively low number of infections.”
He said the success of these measures meant the borders could reopen.
The Czech Republic said it would lift all of the temporary border controls between Austria, Germany and Hungary, having already restored free movement with Slovakia on Thursday.
Austrian authorities on Wednesday announced the lifting of border controls with all of its neighboring countries except Italy, which they hope to do some time this month.
France and Germany have both said they would lift restrictions on 15 June, while Spain plans to open up to cross-border travel with its neighbors Portugal and France from 1 July.
Italy has already opened its borders to its EU neighbors, although Italians traveling out of the country may face restrictions. Italy’s northern regions were some of the worst-hit regions of Europe during the pandemic. EFE-EPA