Very good thread by Steve Peers on what we know, and don’t know, about the Coronavirus EU travel ban that looks like an attempt to get internal EU borders lifted.

First published in March 2020.

Here is the European Commission communication on the quasi-travel ban to the EU announced yesterday.

First, the background and legal form of the travel ban.

COVID-19: Temporary Restriction on Non-Essential Travel to the EU. / European Commission

It is not a binding decision of the European Commission or a proposed legislation. It is a proposal that Member States collectively decide to impose a ban, in the form of a Decision of Heads of States and Governments of the Schengen States, and associates.

The Commission refers to the “EU+ area”, defining it to mean all Schengen States including those not fully applying Schengen (Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia).

The United Kingdom and Ireland are invited to align. The associates are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Since it is not a legislation this could be agreed very quickly. The European Council is to have a video conference soon. A decision by the Heads of States and Governments was used in the past regarding issues with Treaty amendments, David Cameron’s deal, or the EU-Ukraine Treaty.

More rationale: the Schengen States have to act together to ensure a common approach. It might enable internal borders to re-open.

Who is covered by the travel ban? Non-EU citizens, except Brits – due to the transition period, and Schengen associates. Legal non-EU residents can enter or transit.

There are also other important exceptions.

The ban would apply for 30 days, subject to review. Citizens and residents will be discouraged from leaving the area, but not banned.

Remember this is a Commission proposal, it is not binding as such. A decision by Member States might not be adopted, or if adopted might not be identical to the Commission’s proposal.

A decision by the Heads of States and Governments is a strange legal beast but the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that it has to be taken into account when interpreting EU law:

Case C-135/08 - Janko Rottman v Freistaat Bayern. / EUR-Lex

Note that the exception for EU citizens/Brits/Schengen associates/non-EU residents only applies “for the purposes of returning to their homes” – or, of course, for other exceptions like transport, healthcare, etc.

The obvious question is, how exactly that might be enforced.

What airlines might do is another question.

I suppose it is possible that something might be organised, collectively if need be, for those stranded outside the EU (or “EU+”).

Finally, he is the Irish government’s response to the European Commission proposal:

Tweets posted on 16 March 2020 by @StevePeers.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 16 March 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Wikimedia/Fyodor Borisov. - Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport terminal 2. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)