BRUSSELS

The European Commission Tuesday reminded Hungary of the principle of non-discrimination between EU citizens after the country banned the entry of nearly all foreigners as a part of COVID-19 restrictions. 

The Hungarian government announced Friday it would not allow foreign nationals – including EU citizens — to travel to the country as of Sept. 1 in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In the meantime, the government agreed on granting exemption to its Visegrad Four counterparts, allowing entry to Czech, Slovak and Polish citizens in case they present a negative coronavirus test.

“This is a clear discrimination between EU citizens that may not happen under European free movement rules,” the European Commission’s spokesperson in charge of justice and rule of law affairs, Christian Wigand, pointed out Tuesday.

He also said that EU Commissioners in charge of Justice and Home Affairs, Didier Reynders and Ylva Johansson, sent a letter to the Hungarian government “stressing that there can be no discrimination between EU citizens when it comes to travel restrictions.”

The EU countries have the right to impose border restrictions in the context of a health crisis, but the measures need to be proportionate, non-discriminatory and based on epidemiological criteria.

Most of the EU states apply certain travel restrictions vis-à-vis other EU nationals, requiring tests, quarantine or eventually banning the entry of travelers from given European countries or regions.

Those travel lists apply targeted measures and are regularly updated according to the COVID-19 statistics.

Following the initiative of the German presidency of the European Council, EU ambassadors will discuss Wednesday new measures to coordinate the countries’ border policies.

The German proposal suggests to set up a clear European framework harmonizing the data source and criteria upon which the EU countries decide to impose travel restrictions, as well as unifying testing and quarantine requirements.

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