September 30, 2020

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Poland reopens borders with all EU neighbors

Poland has beaten a European Commission target date to reopen EU borders by June 15. The move is set to be a major boon to business and tourism despite fears of a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Poland opened its borders to Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia on Saturday, as the coronavirus pandemic in the country slows.

It is the first time in nearly three months that all borders with its European Union neighbors are open.

The border restrictions were lifted from midnight local time (2200 UTC).

Poland had already relaxed controls to the border with Lithuania on Friday.

Poland’s government — along with other EU nations — halted entry to the country in mid-March in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision hit commuters who regularly cross the Polish-German border particularly hard. An exception was agreed for them later.

The reopening follows a European Commission proposal to have all EU borders within the bloc unhindered by June 15.

Poland’s controls at the borders with Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad remain in place, while requirements from these countries have been relaxed.

Poland’s new travel rules

Under Poland’s new measures, citizens of non-EU members Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are allowed to enter Poland if they are the spouse or child of a Polish citizen or have a work permit for the country.

Workers from these countries will not need to complete a 14-day quarantine on arrival.

Flights to EU destinations are planned to resume on June 16.

It was not immediately clear when train connections within the EU would restart operations.

Since the border closures, the Eurocity train that linked the Polish and German capital cities Warsaw and Berlin had been rerouted to the northern Polish port town of Szczecin.

Train links to Poland’s non-EU neighbors will remain suspended.

When are other EU countries lifting travel restrictions?

The European Commission has been aiming to coordinate border reopening and lifting of travel restrictions throughout the bloc among its 27 member states.

It proposedJune 15 as the date to get EU borders open, but the relaxation of rules have been far from coordinated.

Italy — among the world’s hardest hit by the new coronavirus pandemic — reopened its borders on June 3, lifting all restrictions for travelers from within Europe.

Germany is due to end land border checks on Monday. Belgium, France and Greece are lifting restrictions for all travel within Europe, from the same date, in line with EU recommendations. 

But Greece has gone one step further, allowing travelers from farther afield, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Israel and Lebanon.

Spain will only lift travel restrictions on July 1, with Portugal saying it will also open its border with Spain on the same day.

kmm/mm (AFP, dpa) (DW)