The EU Is Reopening Its Borders for Internal Travel

reopening internal borders

The coronavirus outbreak forced countries around the world, including the Schengen member states, to implement strict measures in order to slow down the spread of the virus and minimize the risk of contagion. Travel restrictions and lockdowns were enforced by a great number of nations.

The EU shut down its external borders in March 2020. Non-EU citizens and residents were no longer allowed to enter the Schengen Area, although some exceptions applied.

When Europe became the epicentre of the pandemic later that month, even more severe measures were to be taken. In April 2020, the EU states began to progressively close the internal Schengen borders, a step that is allowed by EU law only in times of emergency.

Normally, there are no strong borders between Schengen countries. This means no customs or document checks when crossing an internal border. EU citizens and foreign nationals with a Schengen visa or, starting from 2022, an ETIAS permit usually can move freely across the Schengen Area.

As the number of COVID-19 cases dropped dramatically in Europe in May, the Schengen countries have been planning the return to free movement. While an agreement on external borders and the access of non-EU nationals will be taken by the EU Commission on June 15th, 2020, each member state will decide independently the reopening of its own borders within the Area.

Keep reading to find out how and when the EU countries are reopening their borders to travellers.

Reopening the Schengen Borders: the Calendar

Most European countries have already drafted a calendar for the return to normality and the resume of standard internal border procedures. The calendar is as follows (ordered by country and date) but may be modified as the situation changes.

Finland: open to workers

Finland has been allowing Schengen workers to enter the country from May 14th. Business and necessary trips between Findland and Schengen states are also allowed, although travellers must follow strict guidelines.

Germany: issuing country-specific travel warnings in June

Germany was among the first to abolish border controls — specifically, at the border with Luxembourg on the 16th of May.

Moreover, citizens of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland can travel across the 3 countries to visit their partners or families and perform agricultural and hunting activities.

From the 15th of June, Germany is expected to replace the travel warning for non-essential trips to the European countries and the UK with individual travel warnings for each nation.

Bulgaria: open to all from May

On the 22nd of May, Bulgaria lifted the entry ban for EU and Schengen citizens and residents. The lift included travellers from San Marino, Andorra, and Vatican City.

Hungary: open to Serbia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic

Hungary was the first Schengen member state to lift the travel ban in place for citizens of a non-Schengen country, Serbia. Serbians have been able to enter Hungary since the 25th of May, without quarantine or other restrictions.

On May 26th, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia reopened their borders for each other. There is a quarantine in place for those who cross the border for trips longer than 48 hours.

Czech Republic: open to Austria, Germany, and Hungary

On the 26th of May, the Ministry of Interior decided to open the borders with Austria and Germany on top of the one with Hungary. All rail and road crossings are now open.

Croatia: open to some from May

Citizens of 10 European nations are allowed into Croatia since May 28th: Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany.

The decision was made after reports from these countries recorded very low infection numbers.

Lithuania: open to some from May

The Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia had opened their borders for each other’s nationals on the 15th of May.

On the 1st of June, Lithuania extended the permission to enter to citizens of the following countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

This is because the incidence of COVID-19 in the above countries is less than 15 cases of infected persons per 100,000 citizens in the last 14 days. Travellers do not have to self-isolate upon arrival.

Estonia: open to all from June

After the agreement with the other Baltic countries, Estonia has opened its borders for all EU/Schengen/UK citizens and residents on the 1st of June. Some of these visitors are required to undergo quarantine upon arrival.

Italy: open to all from June

Tourists from Schengen and EU countries can enter Italy without restrictions. The decision was implemented on June the 3rd. Quarantine applies to EU citizens who come from a third country.

Slovakia: open to some

As mentioned before, the border between Slovakia and the Czech Republic is open. So are the ones with Austria and Hungary.

Moreover, those residing in the Czech Republic, Hungary, or Austria and all individuals holding a Slovakian residence permit can enter the country without having to undergo quarantine.

Austria: open to some from June

Austria has been open to citizens of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia since the 4th of June.

France: open borders from June

France and Germany have agreed to gradually remove border traffic restrictions starting from June 15th. The 2 Ministers of Interior announced that the move was decided especially with workers in mind. The goal is to return soon to border-free normality.

The French border will also be open to other EU nationals. However, the government has announced that this may change in case the situation worsens. Quarantine and tests are not mandatory but could be enforced in a reciprocity move should other countries have it in place for French nationals.

Belgium: open to all from June

Belgium will enter phase 3 of its de-escalation plan on June 15th. From that day, travellers from the EU/Schengen Area/the UK will be allowed into the country.

Norway: open to Denmark

Norway and Denmark have decided to allow each other’s nationals to visit their territories from June 15th. However, travellers must respect the guidelines issued by the Norwegian and Danish authorities.

Switzerland: open to all from June

Starting from the 15th of June, Switzerland will open its borders to the citizens of the following countries:

  • All EU member states
  • The UK
  • The Schengen associated countries (Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland)

Denmark: open to Norway, Germany, and Iceland

On top of the lift of the travel ban for Norwegian citizens, Denmark has decided that it will allow its residents to visit Germany and Iceland from the 15th of June.

Greece: open to some (including countries outside the EU) from June

From the 15th of June, visitors from the following countries will be allowed into Greece: Albania, Australia, Austria, Northern Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Israel, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Hungary, Romania, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Czech Republic, and Finland.

Holland: open to some from June

Holland will open its borders on June 15th for travellers from the following countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.

Iceland: open to all and free tests

On June 15th Iceland will grant entry to all EU and Schengen area travellers. It will also offer visitors coronavirus tests so that they can avoid quarantine.

Malta: open to some from July

Malta will welcome travellers from the following countries from the 1st of July: Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Switzerland, Iceland, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Israel, Latvia, Estonia, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic. On that day, Italians who reside in the islands of Sicily and Sardinia will also be let in.

Spain: open from July

Spain will reopen its borders to EU visitors on the 1st of July. As Spain is following a de-escalation plan that differs from region to region, some Spanish areas may open sooner than others.

Portugal: partly open with tests

Some Portuguese regions such as Madeira and Porto Santo will welcome international tourists on the 1st of July. These travellers will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. The test must have been taken no longer than 72 hours prior to travelling.