Briefing – Towards a common EU approach to lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on freedom of movement – 13-07-2021

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Member States have taken a wide range of measures, which have significantly affected the free movement of people in the EU. Restrictions on freedom of movement have varied in time and across countries – following generally but not strictly – successive ‘waves’ of coronavirus infections. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EU and the Member States have been active in developing a coordinated response to the pandemic, starting from emergency measures to mitigate the effects of the sudden introduction of border controls in the early days of the pandemic to establishing common approaches on risk indicators, interoperable contact tracing apps, vaccination and digital certification. This briefing provides an overview of the main restrictions on free movement adopted by the EU and Schengen countries focusing on control measures at the internal borders introduced between March 2020 and July 2021. It then discusses the key steps taken by the EU and the Member States to develop a common approach to lifting restrictions on freedom of movement. The briefing also places the coronavirus-related restrictions of movement in the context of broader efforts to update and strengthen the Schengen system, which has been under stress for at least a decade. This is an updated edition of an EPRS briefing published in November 2020.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Related Articles

Briefing – EU-UK relations: Difficulties in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol – 09-07-2021

On 3 March 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, announced in a written statement to the UK Parliament, and without consulting the European Union (EU) in advance, that the grace period on border controls on a series of food and live products shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would be extended. This meant that products of animal origin, composite products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plants and plant products could continue being shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland without the official certification, such as health and phytosanitary certificates, required by the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland (the Protocol) of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). In response to the UK’s decision, the EU launched legal action against the UK for breaching the provisions of the Protocol, as well as the good faith obligation under the WA. According to the Protocol, the UK must establish border controls on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland according to EU law. The application of EU law to Northern Ireland, together with the conduct of border controls within the UK, was designed to prevent the establishment of physical border controls (a ‘hard border’) on the island of Ireland, so as to safeguard the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement which brought peace in Northern Ireland, while preserving the integrity of the EU’s single market. The grace period on border controls was agreed by the EU and the UK in December 2020 as a temporary solution to problems raised by the UK. The UK government has reiterated that it intends to implement the Protocol, but that the border controls are causing trade disruption between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and require time to be resolved. It has also mentioned other issues involving areas as diverse as medicinal supplies and parcel shipments, as well as the complexity of customs systems and implementation of exchange of information between the EU and the UK. On 30 June 2021, the EU and the UK reached an agreement on some solutions, including the extension of the grace period on meat products, conditional on tight controls.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – Re-starting tourism in the EU amid the pandemic – 13-07-2021

Tourism plays an enormously important role in the EU economy and society. It generates foreign exchange, supports jobs and businesses, and drives forward local development and cultural exchanges. It also makes places more attractive, not only as destinations to visit but also as locations to live, work, invest and study. Furthermore, as tourism is closely linked with many other sectors – particularly transport – it also affects the wider economy. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the tourism sector hard. The impact on various tourist destinations in the EU has been asymmetrical and highly localised, reflecting differences in types of tourism on offer, varying travel restrictions, the size of domestic tourism markets, level of exposure to international tourism, and the importance of tourism in the local economy. At the beginning of summer 2021, several EU Member States started to remove certain travel restrictions (such as the requirements for quarantine or testing for fully vaccinated travellers coming from certain countries). However, all continue to apply many sanitary and health measures (such as limits on the number of people in common areas, and cleaning and disinfection of spaces). Such measures and restrictions change in line with the evolving public health situation, sometimes at short notice, making recovery difficult for the sector. The EU and its Member States have provided the tourism sector with financial and other support. Some measures were already adopted in 2020. Others were endorsed only shortly before the beginning of summer 2021. One flagship action has been the speedy adoption of an EU Digital Covid Certificate. This certificate harmonises, at EU level, proof of vaccination, Covid-19 test results and certified recovery from the virus. However, it does not end the patchwork of travel rules. Despite efforts to harmonise travel rules at Council level, Member States still apply different rules to various categories of traveller (such as children or travellers arriving from third countries).

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – New EU strategic priorities for the Sahel: Addressing regional challenges through better governance – 09-07-2021

Recent events have shown that the Sahel region remains highly politically unstable. The military takeover of the Chadian government following President Idriss Déby’s sudden death in April 2021 and the repercussions of the August 2020 and May 2021 military coups in Mali are worrying signs of weak democratic governance structures. Burkina Faso’s transitional democracy has also been severely destabilised by the activities of extremist groups and internal conflicts. This political fragility and the lack of government legitimacy have made the responses to the Sahel’s security and humanitarian issues all the more challenging. The continued threat posed by terrorist armed groups and rising intercommunal violence over land and resources have led to both internal and cross-border displacements in Sahel countries. Meanwhile, the inadequacy of governance mechanisms for managing this displacement, compounded by environmental degradation, resource scarcity and population growth, has created a severe humanitarian crisis. Since 2011, the European Union (EU) strategy for the Sahel has focused on both security and development to address these numerous and interconnected challenges. However, EU efforts have remained dominated by a military approach to tackle rising terrorist activity, achieving concrete results but ultimately falling short of long-term regional stability. The new EU integrated strategy in the Sahel aims to strengthen action at the political level, focusing on governance mechanisms, human rights, and collaboration with civil society and local authorities, while maintaining security cooperation with states in the region.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – Mental health and the pandemic – 09-07-2021

While the pandemic is primarily a physical health crisis, it has also had widespread impact on people’s mental health, inducing, among other things, considerable levels of fear, worry, and concern. The growing burden on mental health has been referred to by some as the ‘second’ or ‘silent’ pandemic. While negative mental health consequences affect all ages, young people, in particular, have been found to be at high risk of developing poor mental health. Specific groups have been particularly hard hit, including health and care workers, people with pre-existing mental health problems, and women. The pandemic has also appeared to increase inequalities in mental health, both within the population and between social groups. To address the population’s increased psycho-social needs, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe established an expert group on the mental health impacts of Covid-19 in the European region. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has issued analyses and guidance on mental health in general and the pandemic’s impact on mental health in particular. At European Union level, a December 2020 European Commission communication addressed the pandemic’s impact on mental health. In May 2021, the Commission organised a major online stakeholder event, and published best practice examples of solutions presented. A July 2020 European Parliament resolution recognises mental health as a fundamental human right, calling for a 2021-2027 EU action plan on mental health. Members of the European Parliament have also called on the Commission to put mental health at the heart of EU policymaking. Stakeholders broadly rally around calls for programmes and funding to improve citizens’ mental health, not least to respond to the pandemic’s long-term implications.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – The financial management of visitor groups to the national parliaments – 08-07-2021

In most Member States, visitor’ groups are not sponsored to visit the national parliament. A visit to the national parliament is free of charge, and all the costs related to the visit, for example travel costs, accommodation and local minor expenses, need to be paid by the visitors themselves.
Germany is the only country which has various kinds of programmes where visitors can be reimbursed. Members of Parliament can invite up to 200 people a year of which the travel costs are partially covered by the German Bundestag. There is also a programme which consists of more days for which all the costs related to travel and accommodation are covered by the German government. The German Bundesrat has a programme in which the 16 federal states can invite people for a visit of multiple days to Berlin. In this case the travel costs and accommodation are paid for by the Bundesrat. For all reimbursements, the rules apply that the receipts and underlying documents need to be provided to the Bundestag and Bundesrat after the visit. All documents and receipts are checked through an ex-post control.
The United Kingdom has a programme in which costs are reimbursed, and this programme is funded by the commercial tours of the parliament. In this case, it can be MPs, Peers or the House of Commons or Lords who can invite visitors who are eligible for reimbursement.
In Hungary, only schools can get reimbursement for their travel costs and the entry fee for the national parliament. All the receipts need to be provided to the visitor service of the parliament.
Some countries do have other schemes in which they provide coverage for schools or costs are covered by the MPs’ own funds.
The Council of the EU does not sponsor visitor groups. All visits are requested by visitors themselves and they need to cover all the costs related to the visit themselves. The questions were also sent to the European Commission but no answer was received.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Responses

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *