CORONAVIRUS

EU’s call to open internal borders by June 15 increases pressure on Spain

The Spanish government so far intends to wait until July 1 to lift this coronavirus restriction, and says decisions will be made based on health criteria

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday.
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday.Delmi Álvarez

Spain’s cautious approach to reopening its borders to international visitors is coming under increasing pressure.

On Thursday, the European Commission issued a statement on travel restrictions in which it “strongly encourages the remaining member states to finalise the process of lifting the internal border controls and restrictions to free movement within the EU by June 15, 2020.”

The Spanish government is, for now, planning to reopen its borders on July 1, when it will also lift its requirement for a 14-day quarantine. But many other European nations will be allowing visitors from Schengen area countries by next Monday. Some, like Italy, are already doing so.

Spain is still preventing full mobility between its own regions

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, insisted on the recommendation that internal borders must “reopen as soon as possible.” But she added that the main thing is for everyone to open internal borders completely before opening the EU’s external ones to third-country travelers.

Spain’s deputy PM and economy minister Nadia Calviño said the Commission’s proposal is duly noted, but insisted that all decisions will be based on health criteria.

Until recently, Brussels had accepted the June 30 deadline for restoring free movement of people within the Schengen space. But EU officials argue that coronavirus transmission in the EU is low enough to bring this date forward.

While Germany, France and Belgium have said that they will lift travel restrictions on Monday, Spain is still preventing full mobility between its own regions. This situation is due to end by June 22, when the state of alarm declared to fight the Covid-19 epidemic expires.

But the official date for reopening Spanish borders to foreign travelers is July 1, with the exception of a pilot program in the Balearic Islands that will bring German tourists to the Mediterranean archipelago next week.

The EU Commission said it is aware that coordination issues will not be easy. “We understand that reopening on Monday for countries that have not yet decided to do so could be complicated, and that some might take an extra week or two,” said Johansson.

English version by Susana Urra.

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