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EU Proposing ONE Easy Color-Coded System of Travel Rules

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EU travel has never been so confusing. Any traveler who has recently tried to plan a trip around Europe knows all too well the headaches and puzzlement that come along with the ever-changing entry requirements and border rules.

EU Proposing ONE Easy Color-Coded System of Travel Rules

During the pandemic, each EU nation has established their own set of entry rules and restrictions, often looking extremely different from the rules of their neighbors.

Some countries have a long list of nations that can visit without tests or quarantines, while others have extremely strict testing rules. One traveler might be permitted to enter a certain EU nation but be shut out of others. Some countries are even re-closing their borders after surges in cases, causing massive disruptions in travel plans.

Not only are the messy rules across the EU confusing for travelers, but even border police and local authorities are having a hard time keeping up with the whiplash changes.

Italy EU

The EU commission aims to simplify travel rules

To help solve the confusion, the European Commission has put forward a proposal to member states that would harmonize and coordinate travel throughout the EU. They have suggested using a common color-coded system, based solely on risk and transparency levels, that would make one clear set of entry rules for travelers.

“Today we propose to our Member States a well-coordinated, predictable and transparent approach to travel restrictions where these are needed, always placing the protection of public health first. We must avoid further disruption of already fragile economies and additional uncertainty for citizens who have made huge sacrifices. They expect this from us after so many months living with COVID-19.”

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, StellaKyriakides

EU travel rules

If approved, the new system will have one harmonized way of categorizing risk levels, simple color-coded lists, and one blanket rule for testing and/or quarantines. It would intensely simplify entry rules and remove many levels of doubt for travelers, airlines and border control alike.

Eu commission

The EU commission has suggested launching the new system incorporating 4 important elements. They are:

1. Harmonized Criteria

Since most nations are using their own set of criteria to assess risk, the first step in the proposed color-coded system would be to use one system of risk measurement.

The advised harmonized criteria are as follows:

  • The total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases per 100 000 people in a given area in a 14-day period;
  • The percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests carried out in given area during a seven-day period;
  • The number of COVID-19 tests carried out per 100 000 people in a given area during a seven-day period.
eu new color coded system

2. Easy To Understand Color-Coded Lists

Based on the above suggested criteria, the EU commission is recommending a 4-color system be implemented across all member nations. Green, Orange, Red and Grey would signify the risk level of the traveler.

  • Green for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 25 during a 14-day period AND the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is less than 3%;
  • Orange for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is less than 50 during a 14-day period BUT the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is 3% or more OR the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is between 25 and 150 BUT the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is less than 3%;
  • Red for an area where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 50 during a 14-day period AND the percentage of positive tests from all COVID-19 tests is 3% or more OR the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 150 per 100 000 people during a 14-day period;
  • Grey if there is insufficient information available to assess the criteria proposed by the Commission OR the number of COVID-19 tests carried out per 100 000 people is less than 250.
st peters square

“Since March, the Commission has developed and delivered a solid foundation of internal and external border control recommendations for Member States to follow. Today's measures builds on this track record so that we can fully benefit from our Schengen area. That is why we want a clear ‘green, orange, red' system and not a kaleidoscope of individual measures”

–  Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson

3. Common Requirements For High-Risk Travelers

Across the EU, travelers from high-risk countries are all treated differently at the moment. Some are completely banned, while others might face 14-day quarantines and anywhere from 1 to 3 PCR tests.

The prospective system would dictate one common approach for how to handle incoming high-risk travelers, such as PCR testing upon arrival.

For example, the rule could potentially be: All travelers from RED and GREY countries entering the EU must bring a negative PCR test performed no later than 72 hours prior to arrival and agree to a rapid test upon arrival at the airport.

Having one clear rule will not only help travelers plan accordingly but will also help to revive lost tourism dollars by allowing travelers to safely enter the EU again.

France during covid EU

4. Regular Updates

Currently, each nation updates their ‘countries allowed’ lists and entry requirement rules on their own schedules. Some might update daily, while others weekly, and some even less frequently and sporadically.

The new suggested system would ask for planned weekly updates that would be scheduled, as so travelers and local authorities can better be aware of upcoming changes.

brussels EU commission

“Our right to move freely in the EU has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. For the many citizens who rely on frictionless travel every day, the cacophony of national rules in the EU is overwhelming. We want to simplify things. We are proposing straightforward criteria, applicable without discrimination, which are easy to follow by Member States and allow to inform Europeans properly.”

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders

The European Commission suggested this new system to member states of the EU on September 4, 2020.

The Commission's proposal for a Recommendation will be discussed by the Council with the aim of an adoption in the coming weeks.

EU Proposing ONE Easy Color-Coded System of Travel Rules

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Tuesday 8th of September 2020

Thank you Kashlee, for the information. Cyprus is actually quite clear and has lists of Category A and B countries on their site. They do not care where you reside, but only that you have been in safe countries the last 2 weeks. I have been speaking w the embassy and tourism board. The list also can change so keep in mind. I wonder how much Greece is enforcing? I think Cyprus makes the most sense. Is the new announcement on September 14? Wonder what are chances are of getting cleared? Are you traveling at all now???:::)


Tuesday 8th of September 2020

Hello, does anyone know if you are American and quarantine or go to another country for 2 wks before if any of the countries are letting you in? I know Cyprus will let you do for specific countries. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated. I'm curious about Italy and Spain and possibly Greece? Thanks 🤩

Kashlee Kucheran

Tuesday 8th of September 2020

Hey Alexis - This is the golden Q. Most EU nations especially want you to be a RESIDENT of a safe country. There are a handful of places that will let you in after being in a safe country for 14 days, but not many, and most are very reluctant to comment on it. Italy and Spain are a no go. Greece MIGHT, but technically they still state they want you to be a resident of a safe country.


Monday 7th of September 2020

Let's be honest: I doubt this is widely happening.

While some countries have no mandatory quarantine at all (Netherlands/Sweden i.e.), others have just made their rules stricter (5 days mandatory quarantine arriving from "risk areas" in Germany, basically they have put the whole world onto the risk list), I don't think they will adapt it. They are way too far apart.

And if they do, I am very much afraid they will already make quarantine mandatory for orange countries. Making rules much stricter than they are currently.

Germany's health ministry in the past days has frequently said they urge people to spend their holidays within Germany for at least the upcoming 6 months. Looks like the damage to aviation etc. still isn't big enough to properly care.

Keith Lockwood

Monday 7th of September 2020

These are the most interesting suggestions I’ve ever heard. Thanks so much for sharing this!!


Saturday 5th of September 2020

I just hope this will not ruin my trip in the coming week. I have been changing my itinerary like crazy, first Italy and then they implemented 14 day quarantine rule for Canadians, so switched to Spain, but their 2nd wave is coming so strong I fear they might have a lockdown, the situation in France is also very dire. now with changing my air ticket 3 times I hope the new destination will welcome me. EU can sort out this unified rule for my next visit! :)


Tuesday 8th of September 2020

Jason , I’m Canadian and I’m currently in Barcelona as I type. This is the second time I’m in Barcelona this summer. I came for 3 weeks in late July and I’m here now for 1 week. It’s not as bad as people say it is. I go to restaurants (outdoors) and I keep my bottle of purel filled to the top. Wear masks. And be careful. I would not go to Madrid. But Barcelona is open (no night life which is fine ). I haven’t heard anything about lockdown and I don’t think they will. Good luck in your search. By the way I’ll be back in November to Spain 😂