27 member states of the European Union (EU) have opened borders for people from 15 countries from July 1. The European Council, in a statement, said “The Council today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.”
China has been provisionally included in the list of safe countries, but certain conditions have to be met. However, the US, Brazil, India, or Russia are not included in the list. The other countries on the safe list are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.
Reciprocity is a condition for all countries on the list
This decision will greatly disappoint Americans planning to travel to Europe. The spreading of the virus across the Atlantic and the huge number of cases and deaths was enough to convince the EU that the risk was still too high. The US has seen over 2.5 million cases and suffered over 125,000 deaths. In recent days there has been a spike in Covid-19 cases in many states across the country.
As China is provisionally approved as the 15th name on the list, travel will only be allowed if Beijing also allows in EU travelers. The member states take the final decision because even though the list has been agreed upon politically, it is not legally binding. Border control remains a national competence and not something that is decided at the EU level. The EU states, “A Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.”
The list will be reviewed every two weeks and adjusted depending on the latest coronavirus spread in each country
Countries will make the safe list if the coronavirus outbreak in that country was similar or better than that EU average. The bar was fixed at 16 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks. The EU and Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland) lifted border controls for EU citizens traveling inside the bloc on June 15. They will open their external borders on July 1. UK nationals get the same treatment as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December so they can travel freely to Europe. They may have to enter quarantine on their return.
The Council’s statement said: “For countries where travel restrictions continue to apply, the following categories of people should be exempted from the restrictions:
- EU citizens and their family members
- Long-term EU residents and their family members
- Travelers with an essential function or need
15 EU countries representing 65% of the population had to agree with the list. This decision is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly southern Europe countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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