BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union envoys are nearing completion of a list of countries whose citizens may be allowed to re-enter Europe, possibly as of late next week, EU diplomats confirmed on Saturday. Americans are almost certainly excluded in the short term because of the number of U.S. coronavirus cases.
The envoys are expected to have narrowed down on Saturday the precise criteria for countries to make the list, including how the spread of the virus is managed. Another important condition is whether the country bans citizens from European countries.
The number of cases in the United States has skyrocketed over the past week, with a record high of 45,300 confirmed new daily infections just reached. In a decree in March, President Donald Trump also suspended access to all people from Europe’s ID-check-free travel zone.
EU diplomats have confirmed that an official agreement on the criteria is expected late Monday or early Tuesday – likely to include a reduction in the infection rate per 100,000 citizens -. The diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because the procedure is ongoing and politically very sensitive.
The number of infections is high in Brazil, India and Russia, and the EU is unlikely to let their citizens in as well. The list would be updated every 14 days, with new countries added, and some may have been left out based on how they manage the spread of the virus.
More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe every year, and any delay would further hit virus-infested economies and tourism sectors, both in Europe and in the United States. 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 their borders between July 1.
Once that happens, the restrictions on non-essential travel to Europe, imposed in March to prevent new viruses from entering, would be gradually lifted.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday rejected concerns that the EU may refuse to let Americans in.
“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, ”said Pompeo. “We will work to get this done. We want to ensure that it is based on health and science. ‘
“We need to get our global economy going again,” he said.
The European Commission, which oversees the laws of the bloc, believes that “travel restrictions should 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.
The committee maintains that it is not trying 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,” spokesman Eric Mamer said Thursday, adding that its decisions are “based on health criteria.”
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