BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union is on the way to finalizing a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to re-enter Europe in the coming days, with Americans almost certain to be excluded in the short term by the number of US coronavirus cases.
The Spanish foreign minister said the list could include 15 countries that are not EU members and whose citizens would be able to visit from 1 July. EU diplomats confirmed that the list would be made public on Tuesday. The diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because the procedure is ongoing and politically very sensitive.
EU envoys in Brussels worked last weekend to narrow down the exact criteria for countries to be included, focusing in particular on their ability to control the spread of the disease. Importantly, countries are also expected to withdraw the travel restrictions they have imposed on European citizens.
The number of confirmed cases in the United States has skyrocketed in the past week, and President Donald Trump also suspended in a decree in March the access of all people from Europe’s check-free travel zone, making it highly unlikely that U.S. citizens would be eligible .
Infection rates in Brazil, Russia and India are also high, and their subjects are unlikely to cut spending too.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the EU is considering accepting travelers from China if Beijing lifts restrictions on European citizens. Morocco is another option, although the government has no plans to open borders until July 10.
She said she was unaware of the United States’ pressure on the EU to re-open travel to its nationals, adding that countries were chosen based on their coronavirus statistics – similar or not to those in the EU – contamination trends and how reliable are their data.
“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries, this is an exercise of self-responsibility,” she told Spanish Cadena SER radio on Monday.
The safe country list would be revised every 14 days, adding new countries and some may disappear depending on how the spread of the disease is managed. Non-EU nationals already on the block would not be affected.
More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe every year, and any delay would be another blow to virus-ravaged economies and tourism sectors on both sides of the Atlantic. About 10 million Europeans cross the Atlantic for vacations and business every year.
The 27 EU countries and four other countries that are part of Europe’s “Schengen area” – a block of 26 countries where goods and people can move freely without documentary checks – seem to be on track to reopen borders from Wednesday.
Once that is done and given the green light, the restrictions on non-essential travel to Europe from the outside world, imposed in March to prevent new viruses from entering, would gradually be lifted.
Brussels fears that opening up to countries in an ad hoc manner could lead to the reintroduction of border controls between countries within the Schengen area, again endangering Europe’s cherished principle of free movement, allowing people and goods to cross borders without controls .
Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.
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