On 13 October, foreign affair ministers of the European Union countries approved a Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose is to maintain free movement within the Union, under safe conditions.
Until recently it was difficult to know exactly the all the regulations when you wanted to travel to Europe: each country was deciding a series of separate and different rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19, without any discussion with their neighbours. Some are asking for tests, others are requesting quarantine whatever is your test result, some are asking for both whiles others are not enforcing specific rules... The EU limited its action to referencing and updating the different country rules on a website : https://reopen.europa.eu/
A more predictable and transparent approach to the adoption of restrictions on freedom of movement was not only necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and safeguard the health of citizens, but also important for the millions of citizens who rely on cross-border travel every day. The Recommendation sets out four key areas where Member States will adopt common rules: criteria for risk measurement, map, approach for travellers and centralised information.
Member States will take the following key criteria into account when considering to restrict free movement in response to the coronavirus pandemic:
To ensure that comprehensive and comparable data is available, Member States will provide the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with the necessary data on a weekly basis.
Based on data provided by the Member States, the ECDC will publish a map of EU Member States (including also data from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), broken down by regions, which will show the risk levels across the regions in Europe using a traffic light system. Regions will be indicated in the colours from "green" (notification rate over 14 days is less than 25 and the test positivity rate is less than 4%), "orange" (less than 50, with rate or more 4%), "red" (notification at 50 or more, with rate at 4% or more) and "grey" (if not enough information is available).
The information made available on the "Re-open EU" web platform.
On the basis of the common map, Member States will then decide whether they introduce certain restrictions, such as quarantine or tests, on travellers coming from other areas. Member States have agreed that there will be no restrictions on travellers coming from "green" regions but they will be free to decide what measures to apply on people travelling from risk areas to their territories, including:
Travellers with an essential function such as health care workers, frontier and posted workers, students, journalists... should be exempted from quarantine.
Test carried out before arrival should also be recognised in all EU countries. There will be no discrimination between EU countries and Member States should not be able to refuse entry to their territory based on nationality (which is unfortunately currently the case for Hungary).
As a general rule, information on new measures will be published to the public 24 hours before they come into effect (and if possible the information should be given 48 hours in advance). All information should also be made available on Re-open EU web platform. They are also planning a common form to be completed for travellers.
A simple but thorough infography on the new rules has been released by the EU Council.
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