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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 ...

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.

Artificial intelligence at EU borders: Overview of applications and key issues

07-07-2021

The EU is actively exploring how AI technologies can be developed and adopted in order to improve border control and security. A number of applications for biometric identification, emotion detection, risk assessment and migration monitoring have already been deployed or tested at EU borders. AI technologies may bring important benefits for border control and security, such as increased efficiency, better fraud-detection and risk analysis. However, these powerful technologies also pose significant ...

The EU is actively exploring how AI technologies can be developed and adopted in order to improve border control and security. A number of applications for biometric identification, emotion detection, risk assessment and migration monitoring have already been deployed or tested at EU borders. AI technologies may bring important benefits for border control and security, such as increased efficiency, better fraud-detection and risk analysis. However, these powerful technologies also pose significant challenges, related in particular to their insufficient or varying accuracy and the multiple fundamental rights risks they entail (including bias and discrimination risks, data protection and privacy risks, and the risk of unlawful profiling).

EU Covid-19 certificate: A tool to help restore the free movement of people across the European Union

20-05-2021

The Covid-19 crisis has had a severe impact on free movement in the EU. To address this issue, on 17 March 2021 the Commission issued a proposal to establish a 'digital green certificate' – a common framework for issuing, verifying and accepting interoperable health certificates. The certificate would include proof of vaccination, Covid-19 test results, and/or information that the holder has recovered from being ill with Covid-19. The proposal has been given priority by the co-legislators with a ...

The Covid-19 crisis has had a severe impact on free movement in the EU. To address this issue, on 17 March 2021 the Commission issued a proposal to establish a 'digital green certificate' – a common framework for issuing, verifying and accepting interoperable health certificates. The certificate would include proof of vaccination, Covid-19 test results, and/or information that the holder has recovered from being ill with Covid-19. The proposal has been given priority by the co-legislators with a view to seeking to reach agreement and launch the certificate before summer 2021. A temporary digital health certificate is seen as a less restrictive measure than others currently in place, such as entry bans, quarantine and business closures, and may allow for a gradual reopening of the economy. Whereas the initiative has been welcomed by some (such as the tourism and transport sectors), the certificate raises a number of concerns, in relation to its design, fundamental rights implications and overall usefulness. This briefing discusses the Commission's proposals and the initial positions of the EU co-legislators in the broader context. It analyses a number of key issues raised by the certificate, namely: its legal scope, the different types of certificates included in the overall digital green certificate, the risk of discrimination, data protection concerns, technical aspects, the timeframe and the overall added value of the certificates.

Towards a common EU approach to lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on freedom of movement

26-11-2020

In an effort to tackle the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, EU Member States started reinstating restrictions on the freedom of movement in October 2020. To prevent a new series of severe and uncoordinated restrictions at countries' internal borders similar to those of March this year, there have been renewed efforts at the EU level to establish a coordinated approach towards coronavirus-related restrictions on movement. While the focus is now on the ongoing health crisis, concerns about ...

In an effort to tackle the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, EU Member States started reinstating restrictions on the freedom of movement in October 2020. To prevent a new series of severe and uncoordinated restrictions at countries' internal borders similar to those of March this year, there have been renewed efforts at the EU level to establish a coordinated approach towards coronavirus-related restrictions on movement. While the focus is now on the ongoing health crisis, concerns about the functioning of the Schengen area of free movement predate the pandemic. As recent terrorist attacks in Europe remind us, scant progress and unfinished reforms in the area of migration, external borders and security both weaken and threaten to undo the important achievements of Schengen cooperation. This briefing discusses the key steps taken by the EU to develop a common response to the above challenges and thus to safeguard the Schengen area. It provides an overview of the main restrictions on movement imposed by EU and Schengen countries as of 25 November 2020. Since contact-tracing apps have been promoted as a key tool in combating the pandemic and restoring freedom of movement, this briefing also provides an overview of the existing coronavirus applications in the EU Member States and their interoperability across borders.

Screening of third-country nationals at the EU external borders

17-11-2020

In September 2020, the Commission put forward a new pact on migration and asylum, setting out a comprehensive approach to European Union (EU) migration policies that links external borders, asylum, return systems, the Schengen area of free movement and the external dimension of migration. The pact includes a proposal for a new regulation on the screening of third-country nationals at external borders aiming to clarify and streamline the rules on dealing with third-country nationals who are not authorised ...

In September 2020, the Commission put forward a new pact on migration and asylum, setting out a comprehensive approach to European Union (EU) migration policies that links external borders, asylum, return systems, the Schengen area of free movement and the external dimension of migration. The pact includes a proposal for a new regulation on the screening of third-country nationals at external borders aiming to clarify and streamline the rules on dealing with third-country nationals who are not authorised to enter or stay in the EU. The proposal would introduce a pre-entry screening procedure allowing national authorities at external borders to channel irregular third-country nationals to the appropriate procedure, i.e. asylum or return procedures. The screening would start with preliminary health and vulnerability checks and finish with the transmission of a debriefing form to the appropriate authorities. The proposal would provide for the establishment, by each Member State, of an independent monitoring mechanism for fundamental rights. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Free movement within the EU

11-09-2020

The coronavirus outbreak and the measures taken to counter it have had a profound impact on the free movement of people, goods, services and capital in the European Union (the 'four freedoms'). The uncoordinated border restrictions introduced by Member States in the initial phase of their efforts to halt the spread of the virus all but suspended the free movement of people and greatly affected the free movement of goods and services, causing considerable disruption to the European single market. ...

The coronavirus outbreak and the measures taken to counter it have had a profound impact on the free movement of people, goods, services and capital in the European Union (the 'four freedoms'). The uncoordinated border restrictions introduced by Member States in the initial phase of their efforts to halt the spread of the virus all but suspended the free movement of people and greatly affected the free movement of goods and services, causing considerable disruption to the European single market. The Union responded to this emergency with a series of immediate measures aimed at limiting the effects of the crisis, preventing shortages of essential goods, and ensuring a coordinated return to normal. The pandemic has exposed pre-existing shortcomings in the implementation of freedom of movement in the EU. It has also highlighted the importance of free movement, necessary for the provision of essential goods, and based on closely integrated supply chains and the key contributions of mobile workers. The immediate measures will need to be backed by more sustained and structural changes to fully 'reboot' free movement in the EU. Improved implementation of free movement will be key to achieving faster and stronger recovery of economies and societies, based on closer European integration and a deeper single market.

Tracking key coronavirus restrictions on movement and social life in the EU Member States

17-07-2020

All the EU Member States adopted emergency measures in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus. These measures restricted a number of fundamental freedoms, including movement across and within national borders, access to education, freedom of association and, more broadly, freedom to engage in social and economic activities. Following a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases, most Member States have gradually begun to lift or ease these restrictions. This briefing presents an overview ...

All the EU Member States adopted emergency measures in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus. These measures restricted a number of fundamental freedoms, including movement across and within national borders, access to education, freedom of association and, more broadly, freedom to engage in social and economic activities. Following a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases, most Member States have gradually begun to lift or ease these restrictions. This briefing presents an overview of 10 key measures taken by the Member States in response to the pandemic. They relate to cross-border travel (controls at internal EU borders, entry bans affecting EU and non-EU citizens, and exit bans); movement and association (restrictions of movement in the country and bans on social gatherings); education and social activities (closure of educational institutions, shops and restaurants); and contact tracing. This briefing tracks these key measures from 1 March to 30 June 2020 and presents their evolution in relation to the general evolution of the pandemic in each Member State, represented by the cumulative number of reported Covid-19 cases per 100 000 population in the previous 14 days.

Lifting coronavirus restrictions: The role of therapeutics, testing, and contact-tracing apps

16-07-2020

In the absence of vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, any easing of restrictions to freedom of movement and social life needs to be accompanied by enhanced monitoring measures, such as expanded testing capacity and improved contact tracing, including use of appropriate digital technologies. There are very few certainties about the coronavirus pandemic, but perhaps one is that no isolated measure or silver-bullet solution is likely to solve all aspects of the crisis. A flexible and integrated strategy ...

In the absence of vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, any easing of restrictions to freedom of movement and social life needs to be accompanied by enhanced monitoring measures, such as expanded testing capacity and improved contact tracing, including use of appropriate digital technologies. There are very few certainties about the coronavirus pandemic, but perhaps one is that no isolated measure or silver-bullet solution is likely to solve all aspects of the crisis. A flexible and integrated strategy, based on complementary tools and measures (therapeutics, testing and contact tracing) and a coordinated approach across the EU are key to gradually lifting restrictions and to going back to the (new) normal.

States of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis: Situation in certain Member States II

13-05-2020

Member States have adopted a range of emergency measures in response to the unprecedented public health crises generated by the coronavirus pandemic. Whereas not all Member States dispose of constitutional mechanisms to enable the declaration of a 'state of emergency', all have taken exceptional and far-reaching emergency measures that affect citizens' rights and freedoms as well as democratic processes. These institutional changes and the restrictions imposed on citizens' lives pose significant ...

Member States have adopted a range of emergency measures in response to the unprecedented public health crises generated by the coronavirus pandemic. Whereas not all Member States dispose of constitutional mechanisms to enable the declaration of a 'state of emergency', all have taken exceptional and far-reaching emergency measures that affect citizens' rights and freedoms as well as democratic processes. These institutional changes and the restrictions imposed on citizens' lives pose significant institutional and democratic challenges. Given their impact on fundamental rights and freedoms and on the normal functioning of democracy, emergency measures need to be carefully examined, matched with adequate legal safeguards, and subject to close democratic scrutiny. This is particularly true in the context of rapid changes of circumstances and in view of new evidence about the evolution of the crisis and its implications. This briefing covers the following countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Austria, Romania, and Slovenia. It focuses on three key aspects: i) the constitutional framework of the state emergency or legitimation of the emergency legislation; ii) the concrete measures adopted; and iii) the extent of parliamentary oversight exercised on the adopted measures. This briefing is the second in a series aimed at providing a comparative overview of Member States' institutional responses to the coronavirus crisis. The first in the series covered an initial set of seven Member States.

The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders

27-04-2020

The 26 countries of the Schengen Area are only meant to reintroduce border controls between themselves in specific circumstances, and for strictly limited periods of time. In recent weeks, many of the Schengen states have reintroduced border controls, notifying them to the European Commission on the grounds of an immediate threat to public policy as a result of the spread of coronavirus. This infographic shows the latest situation in respect of border controls put in place at internal borders within ...

The 26 countries of the Schengen Area are only meant to reintroduce border controls between themselves in specific circumstances, and for strictly limited periods of time. In recent weeks, many of the Schengen states have reintroduced border controls, notifying them to the European Commission on the grounds of an immediate threat to public policy as a result of the spread of coronavirus. This infographic shows the latest situation in respect of border controls put in place at internal borders within the Schengen Area. This is an update of a briefing published in March 2020.

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