BRUSSELS (AP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday diluted concerns that the European Union may refuse to admit Americans to the 27-nation bloc as it plans to lift restrictions on foreign travelers starting next week due to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
“It is a challenge for all of us to decide how and when to open up our economies and our societies. Everyone is trying to figure that out, ”said Pompeo during a video conference hosted by the German Marshall Fund think tank. “We are working with our European counterparts to do that right.”
European countries seem to be on track to reopen their borders by July 1. Their envoys to Brussels are discussing the virus-related criteria that apply to lifting access restrictions for non-EU travelers imposed in March.
As the criteria are limited, a list of countries whose citizens may be admitted is being drawn up. The list is updated every 14 days based on how the coronavirus spreads around the world.
The EU Executive Committee recommends that “travel restrictions not be lifted with regard to third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
That likely excludes people living in the United States, where new coronavirus infections have risen to the highest level in two months, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Apart from epidemiological issues, each country under consideration is expected to first lift its own travel restrictions for visitors from all 31 European countries.
This would also exclude the US. In a decree of March 11, President Donald Trump suspended access to all people from Europe’s ID-free travel area. More than 10 million Europeans visit the United States every year.
But Pompeo said it is important for everyone to help “get our global economy going again.”
“We refused trips to Europe and vice versa. That’s the attitude we’re all in now, and I think we all take seriously the need to figure out how to fix this, ”he said. “We will work to get this done. We want to ensure that it is based on health and science. ‘
The European Commission insisted on Thursday that it try not to target any country or that the list could be politicized, as tourism-dependent countries in Europe are pushing to open their borders again.
“The European Union has an internal process to determine from which countries it is safe to accept travelers,” said spokesman Eric Mamer, adding that EU decisions are “based on health criteria.”
Washington DC diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
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