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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case EU-2020-37/1125 – measures in European Union

Free movement of people in the EU: more clarity and predictability of restricting measures

Country European Union , applies eu-wide (or beyond)
Time period Open ended, started on 09 September 2020
Type Non-binding recommendations or other texts
Category Ensuring business continuity and support for essential services
– Smoothing frictions or reallocation of workers
Author Eurofound
Case created 15 September 2020 (updated 29 October 2020)

Background information

A proposal for a Recommendation published by the European Commission on 9 September 2020 aimed at ensuring the coordination and timely communication at the EU level of measures taken by Member States that restrict free movement due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The legal basis for the proposal are Articles 21(2), 46, 52(2), 168(6) and 292 of the Treaty on the Functioning the European Union. The Council Recommendation is to be adopted at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8-9 October 2020.

On 12 October 2020 the Council adopted a recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restrictions of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Content of measure

The proposal for Recommendation sets out four key areas where Member States should work closer together.

  • Common criteria and thresholds for Member States when deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions.
  • Mapping of common criteria using an agreed colour code.
  • A common framework for measures applied to travellers from high-risk areas. The Member States should no longer turn back such persons. Instead, it advises that these travellers should either undergo quarantine or Coronavirus testing upon arrival.
  • Clear and timely information to the public about any restrictions. The Commission proposes that the Member states should notify on the intended changes at least a week before they become effective, and also provide information to the reOPEN EU web platform.

According to the Recommendation accepted by the Council every week, member states should provide the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with the data available on the following criteria:

  • number of newly notified cases per 100 000 population in the last 14 days;
  • number of tests per 100 000 population carried out in the last week (testing rate);
  • percentage of positive tests carried out in the last week (test positivity rate).

Based on this data, the ECDC should publish a weekly map of EU member states, broken down by regions, to support member states in their decision-making. Areas should be marked in the following colours:

  • green if the 14-day notification rate is lower than 25 and the test positivity rate below 4%;
  • orange if the 14-day notification rate is lower than 50 but the test positivity rate is 4% or higher or, if the 14-day notification rate is between 25 and150 and the test positivity rate is below 4%;
  • red if the 14-day notification rate is 50 or higher and the test positivity rate is 4% or higher or if the 14-day notification rate is higher than 150;
  • grey if there is insufficient information or if the testing rate is lower than 300.

Use of measure

People enjoying free movement within the EU. The number is currently difficult to quantify due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Cross-border commuters
Posted workers
Applies to all businesses Applies to all citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
EU (Council, EC, EP)
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role No involvement No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: N/A


Social partners were not involved in the development of the Recommendation's proposal, however, they previously expressed opinions about the need to regulate this issue.

Views and reactions

From the very beginning of the pandemic, social partners expressed opinions on the need to tackle this issue, in particular with regard to frontier workers, for example:

  • In the view of BusinessEurope the EU must ensure that Member States respect the principles of free movement notably to allow frontier and seasonal workers to continue to work by establishing green corridors for them, as part of a broader and stronger coordination of border management strategies;
  • In the view of European Trade Union Confederation, the health, safety and equal treatment of cross-border workers must be the overarching principles for the purpose of restoring the freedom of movement and Member States should allow not only workers in critical occupations to cross the borders to access their workplace, but any cross-border workers in sectors where activities are allowed to continue or resume in the host Member State.


  • 30 April 2020: BUSINESSEUROPE proposals for a European economic recovery plan (
  • 20 May 2020: ETUC comments on the Commission Communication on a phased and coordinated approach for restoring freedom of movement (
  • 04 September 2020: Proposal for a COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (
  • 12 October 2020: Council recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (


Eurofound (2020), Free movement of people in the EU: more clarity and predictability of restricting measures, case EU-2020-37/1125 (measures in European Union), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.