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'Love is not tourism': EU bids to reunite couples split by coronavirus restrictions

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By Alice Tidey
Sandro Manzato, from the Veneto region, hugs his daughter Yearline, 3, as she arrives with her mum Rubiela Perea, right, from Colombia, in Rome, June 3, 2020.
Sandro Manzato, from the Veneto region, hugs his daughter Yearline, 3, as she arrives with her mum Rubiela Perea, right, from Colombia, in Rome, June 3, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

The European Union is urging member countries to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions to allow unmarried couples to reunite after nearly half a year of separation.

EU member states have reopened their borders to each other — although some restrictions apply — and to a shortlist of approved third-countries where the coronavirus is deemed under control.

But this list excludes most countries around the world including the US, Russia, Brazil, most African and Asian countries. This means citizens from these countries that are not EU residents may not be able to come to the EU.

A spokesperson for the EU Commission told reporters on Friday that during a meeting with national border authorities on Thursday, Brussels "raised an issue directly affecting many people, namely, excluding unmarried partners of European citizens and residents from the travel restrictions into the EU.

"Under the current legal situation, member states can allow unmarried partners with duly attested relationships to enter the EU if they choose to do so. We repeatedly encouraged member states to use this possibility. Currently, only a minority of member states do so.

"We will continue to call on all member states to allow the entry of people in duly attested relationships with European citizens and residents without delay," he added.

The Commission has not, however, explained what "duly attested" entails.

The issue has been gaining traction in recent weeks with couples sharing their plight on social media using #LoveIsNotTourism and #LoveIsEssential.

According to the Love Is Not Tourism group, the issue impacts approximately 9,000 EU citizens and residents.

Only seven of the 31 countries in the EU/EEA and the single market currently allow the unmarried foreign partner of one of their national or resident to join them. These are the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.

Germany announced on Friday that it would join them starting next week.

France is widely expected to also lift restrictions for unmarried couples after junior minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said earlier this week that the Foreign Ministry is working on this "painful" problem and that a solution would be unveiled "in the coming days".

The EU's expression of support of Germany's announcement that restriction would be lifted has been cheered by the community online.

Felix Urbasik, the creator of Love Is Not Tourism campaign wrote on Twitter in response to Brussels' show of support: "It took you a damn long time EU Commission, but once again, you are showing that you actually care about you citizens. Thank you."

Robin Maximilian Brune, a campaigner for the reunification of binational couples between Europe, and non-EU countries cheered Germany's announcement, writing: "Love always wins".

One US-German couple who managed to reunite earlier this week also welcomed the announcement but was less effusive.

"Our faith in Germany forever damaged. Lack of response of @BMI_Bund (Interior Ministry) and @CDUCSUBT (the largest parliamentary group in the Bundestag) for months, the disdain we put up with, the condescending "be patient" comments. We don't forget," they wrote on Twitter.

The couple reunited after Taz, stuck in the US since the beginning of the outbreak, flew from Chicago to Heathrow, in London. She then spent 14 days in self-isolation in a hotel in Dover. Her partner, Moritz, then drove from Germany to pick her up and both then travelled through France and Belgium to return to Germany.