Reply „Letter from MEPs – situation of unmarried bi-national couples – border closures“

Dear Honourable Members,

Thank you for your letter of 1 July 2020 in which you support the efforts of the Commission to lift some ofthe travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and share your views on the topic of cross-border couples.

Let me start by assuring you that the European Commission is well aware ofthe impact that travel restrictions have on partners and families living in different countries.

To begin with, Member States have agreed to lift their internal border controls and other restrictions to free movement within the EU and Schengen area. This has been done in line with the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures of 15 April 2020, the Commission Communication of 13 May 2020 proposing a phased and
coordinated approach for the lifting of internal border controls and restoring freedom of movement, and the Communication of 11 June on the third assessment of the application of the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU.

As a second step, in the above-mentioned Communication of 11 June 2020, the Commission has set out an approach for the gradual lifting of the restriction on non-essential travel into the EU as of 1 July 2020.

Mr Rasmus Andresen
Member of the European Parliament

Ms Hannah Neumann
Member ofthe European Parliament

On 30 June 2020, the Council adopted its own Recommendation on the temporary restriction of non-essential travel into the EU, including a list of third countries whose residents should not be affected by the temporary restriction. 1 That list is based on a transparent set of criteria and will in principle be reviewed every two weeks.

Nevertheless, where temporary travel restrictions continue to apply to a third country, the family members of Union citizens and of long-term residents should be, according to the Council Recommendation, exempted from the travel restrictions, independent of the purpose of travel.

According to the Council Recommendation, the term “family member” is defined in Articles 2 and 3 of Directive 2004/38/EC.2 The definition would then include not only the spouse of an EU citizen3, but also “the partner with whom the Union citizen has a durable relationship, duly attested”.

However, it is the competence of the Member State concerned to assess the durability of relationships, taking into account national legislation.

The Recommendation is without prejudice to the responsibility that Member States have to continue applying Article 6 of the Schengen Borders Code4, which lays down the entry conditions for third-country nationals. In particular, the Member States keep the responsibility to assess whether, on a case-by-case basis, a third-country national is to be considered a threat to public health.

In addition, Member States can take appropriate public health measures such as a requirement to undergo self-isolation or similar upon return from a third country for which the temporary travel restriction is maintained, provided they impose the same requirements on their own nationals.

The same conditions and rights should apply with regard to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) citizens in Europe. While the European Commission stands against discrimination, Member States have exclusive competences in key areas such as family law, including the conditions for marriage/partnership.

Finally, let me point out that Denmark did not take part in the adoption of the Council Recommendation and is not bound by it or subject to its application.15 D2e 3n m4 ark has decided to allow the travel to Denmark also for informal partners of Danish nationals, provided they have a negative coronavirus test taken less than three days before arrival.6 Whereas the ommission welcomes this broad definition offamily members, it lies within the competence of each Member State to adopt different measures in this regard.

Thank you again for your support and let me stress my sincerest wishes that all the partners, lovers, and sweethearts who have been separated during these exceptional times may soon be
reunited.

Yours sincerely,

Ylva Johansson

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