The European Commission on Wednesday invited member states to prolong the restriction on non-essential travel to the EU until May 15 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Commission calls for a coordinated approach to the prolongation, as action at the external borders can only be effective if implemented by all EU and Schengen States at all borders, with the same end date and in a uniform manner," the Commission said in a press release.
The Commission invited member states' leaders on 16 March to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for an initial period of 30 days. Leaders endorsed this call on March 17 and all EU member states (except Ireland) and non-EU Schengen countries have since then taken national decisions to implement this travel restriction.
The latest invitation applies to the ‘EU+ area', which includes all Schengen member states, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania, and the four Schengen associated states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, the press release said.
The Commission also issued instructions for the repatriation of cruise and cargo ship crews, many of which were stuck outside the EU when restrictions were imposed. The Commission called on member states to create a port network for the change of ship crews.
Any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond May 15 would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation, the Commission said.