1. Travel and Living

EU Chief Wants U.S. Lovers, Couples To Be Exempt

The European Union is calling on member states and the travel industry to exempt U.S. residents and others with partners in Europe from the EU travel ban.

The social media campaign to free up love from chains of months of travel bans has been gaining traction under hashtags #LoveIsEssential and #LoveIsNotTourism.

Sweden’s Ylva Johansson–the EU’s Commissioner for Home Affairs–is throwing her weight behind it in a spectacular manner. In the name of love, she wants member states and tourism industry players to act immediately. In a tweet she asks the 30 EU/Schengen states to apply “as wide a definition of partnerships as possible” in offering waivers on the restrictions.

“The partner or ‘sweetheart’ with whom the Union citizen or legal resident has a durable relationship which is duly attested should be exempted from EU travel restrictions on non-essential travel,” Johansson says in another tweet. “#LoveIsEssential indeed!”

EU Judges Love Is Essential

The implications of the call are huge. For the EU is now declaring that love counts as “essential travel” and should be, in all its forms, exempt.

The travel ban since March 17 has separated binational families as well as couples and sweethearts. This took a turn for the worse when the EU extended the ban on American residents last week. But the EU in its guidelines for the travel ban encourages members to interpret possible waivers more widely. As long as “they take appropriate measures such as requiring such persons to undergo self-isolation or similar measures upon return from a third country for which the temporary travel restriction is maintained.”

It remains to be seen just how many states will pick up on this call. So far only Denmark has. It’s allowing foreign partners, parents and children to enter the country, even from the U.S., Russia or Brazil, by signing a sworn statement.

Sweden is edging that way too but with less wide-ranging exceptions. #DoLikeTheDanes is now trending too.

The EU Commissioner call is lending the campaign massive traction. It’s snowballing into a major multilingual drive in Europe and America, as more politicians join the call. One of them is Austrian MEP Andreas Schieder. “Because lovers should be able to see each other, despite Corona entry restrictions,” he tweets. Adding he’s put his weight behind an Austrian petition.

“It is now the task of the State Department to give lovers a perspective,” he writes.

Germany Says No, But Will The Liberal Netherlands, Belgium, Others Soon Follow?

Germany Free Democratic Party MEP, Moritz Körner, is speaking up at an EU level. Germany so far has rejected the idea of waivers for lovers. “It does not correspond to the agreements at European level,” the interior ministry said in a statement on Friday. “We don’t see any room for interpretation either.”

Meanwhile Körner’s directing his energies at the liberal Dutch. In a letter to the Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, he writes: “Partners need to be considered under the exception for families from third countries, no matter their marital status.”

The European parliamentarian says he’s being solicited by thousands of people who’ve been cruelly separated by borders. He wants them to be able to reunite Europe-wide. So his letter is being addressed to other leaders including Belgian Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès.

Trump’s Travel Ban Separates Couples Too

Both the EU travel ban and Donald Trump’s U.S. Europe ban have separated thousands of couples, fiances and soon to be newlyweds.

As Irina tweets: “I live in Belarus and my fiancé is from Italy. Before pandemia [sic] we set a wedding date for August of this year. Now we can’t even meet and hug each other.We haven’t seen each other for almost 6 months! We just want to be together.”

“Thank you Mrs. Johansson for hearing us and supporting our cause,” tweets Maria. “All we want is for both the EU & USA (and others like Canada) to #LiftTheTravelBan so we can all reunite with our loved ones!”

“Dear politicians, it can be done!” urges American Alyssa Nelson, whose separated from her German fiancé. “Your citizens are facing this virus without their loved ones. I am literally unable to get married because of this. Please.”

As Mobs Gather En Masse In Europe, Quarantined Lovers Banned From Reuniting

Many point out the contradictions in the current ban. While photos of mask-less partygoers gathering en masse across Europe swamp social media, why should two people be stopped from meeting up? Particularly if strict quarantine measures are put in place for those who want to circumvent the rules.

As Andreas Schieder points out in a letter to Austria’s foreign and interior ministers:

“Since the outbreak of the corona crisis, the State Department has forgotten the realities of life for many international couples. Regardless of whether married or not, couples must be allowed to see each other again. Now that international air traffic is starting up again, an appropriate solution is needed with a sense of proportion.”

Thousands of people feel they’re being deprived of their basic rights to love through the Covid crisis. Now there is some hope at the end of months-long tunnels for them.

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