Belgium makes a cautious start towards reopening EU’s external borders

The European Member States adopted today a recommendation that allows countries from the EU and Schengen zone (EU+) to allow non-essential travel from 14 countries outside the EU+ as of 1 July. On the basis of the EU framework, the Belgian government will soon evaluate when and under what conditions non-essential travellers from these 14 countries will be allowed to re-enter Belgian territory. In addition, the exceptions for essential travel will be extended. Students, highly qualified workers, persons taking part in meetings at international organisations and seafarers will again be able to travel to the EU+ from 1 July. EU+ citizens and third country nationals legally residing in the EU and their family members will also be able to travel again anywhere within the EU+.

Since the coordinated reopening of the European internal borders on 15 June, travellers from the EU and Schengen zone (EU+) have already been able to travel to Belgium again for non-essential journeys. The improving epidemiological situation in the 27 EU Member States and the subsequent recommendation of the European Commission on 11 June led to the start of negotiations between Member States on the gradual lifting of the restrictions on travel from outside the EU+ external borders, which have been in force since 17 March.

Today, the 27 EU Member States gave the green light for a European framework allowing them to re-admit non-essential travel from certain countries outside the EU+ to their territory. In this way, travel restrictions from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay to the EU+ can be lifted. For China, this relaxation will also apply if EU+ citizens are allowed to travel to China for non-essential journeys. Under which conditions and within which timeframe travel restrictions from these countries will be relaxed, remains a decision of the EU Member States themselves.

The list of countries was drawn up following thorough negotiations between EU Member States, which together drew up an evaluation framework based on objective criteria, such as the health situation. Due to the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, this list and the situation in all third countries will be reviewed every 15 days on the basis of this framework on the basis of the most up-to-date data.

Essential travellers were and still are able to travel to the EU+. The exceptions covered by the essential travel category will also be extended. For example, students (subject to the possibility of restarting visa procedures at consulates), highly qualified workers, persons taking part in meetings at international organisations and seafarers may travel to Belgium and other EU+ countries as from 1 July. EU+ citizens and third country nationals legally residing in the European Union and their family members will also be allowed to travel anywhere within the EU+. Until now, they were only allowed to travel to their country of residence.

 
Travel to/from Belgium

Belgium will implement the European agreement, but takes a cautious approach with the rapidly changing epidemiological situation in mind. In the coming days, the Belgian government will therefore evaluate and soon decide when and under what conditions non-essential travellers from these 14 countries will regain access to Belgian territory. A decision on possible admission for non-essential travel from Belgium to these 14 countries will also soon follow, on the basis of experts' advise.

Travellers are in any case advised to inform themselves well in advance of each trip about the measures to be taken in the country of destination. It is still possible that some of these countries do not yet admit Belgians or impose measures such as a COVID test or quarantine. They can find all the information they need in the travel recommendations of the FPS Foreign Affairs and on the Re-Open EU website.

They should also take all known precautionary measures, such as taking out travel assistance insurance or health insurance cover, so that they can travel in the safest possible way.