Brussels on Thursday set out plans to fully reopen the EU's internal borders on June 15 and to allow travellers from Balkan countries to enter the bloc from July 1.
The recommendation to the 27 EU member states comes as restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus are eased and national governments seek to restart tourism in time for the peak summer season.
Europe accounts for just under half of the 415,000 lives claimed by COVID-19 and now the continent is trying to contain the economic fallout, fearing devastation for its crucial tourism industry.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive, which is trying to coordinate the moves, said it was too early to completely abandon restrictions on travellers coming from outside the EU.
Instead it called for a "common coordinated approach", lifting the ban on non-essential travel for countries where the pandemic is at a similar level to the EU and adequate disease control measures are in place.
The commission said restrictions should be lifted from July 1 for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia because "their epidemiological situation is similar or better than that of the EU".
"International travel is key for tourism and business, and for family and friends reconnecting," European home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said.
"While we will all have to remain careful, the time has come to make concrete preparations for lifting restrictions with countries whose health situation is similar to the EU's."
Johansson had warned last week that not all countries agreed on the criteria for reopening borders to travellers from the rest of the world.
Tourism-dependent countries such as Greece have been pushing for a swift reopening, with Athens already announcing it will welcome travellers from a list of countries including Australia, China and South Korea from June 15.