EU envoys are close to finalizing a list of countries whose citizens will be able to enter Europe again, possibly by the end of next week, EU diplomats confirmed on Saturday. Americans are almost certain to be excluded in the short term due to the number of coronavirus cases in the USA.
Envoys were due to reduce late Saturday the exact criteria for countries to make the list, which include the way the spread of the virus is being managed. Another fundamental condition is whether the country prohibits citizens of European countries.
The number of cases in the United States increased last week, with a historical record of 45,300 new confirmed daily infections. President Donald Trump also suspended everyone from entering the travel zone without identifying Europe’s identity in a decree in March.
EU diplomats confirmed that an official agreement on the criteria – which is likely to include a limit on the infection rate per 100,000 citizens – is expected on Monday or Tuesday night. Diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity, because the procedure is ongoing and politically very sensitive.
Infection rates are high in Brazil, India and Russia, and the EU is unlikely to allow its citizens to enter. The list would be updated every 14 days, with new countries added and some possibly being left out based on how they manage the spread of the virus.
It is estimated that more than 15 million Americans travel to Europe annually, and any delay would be an additional blow to the virus-ravaged economies and tourism sectors in Europe and the United States. About 10 million Europeans are thought to cross the Atlantic for holidays and business each year.
The 27 EU nations and four other countries that are part of Europe’s “Schengen area” – a bloc of 26 countries where goods and people move freely without checking documents – appear on the way to reopening their borders between themselves until July 1.
When that happens, restrictions on non-essential travel to Europe, which were imposed in March to prevent new cases of viruses from entering, would be gradually lifted.
‘Make our global economy work again’
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down concerns that the EU might refuse to allow Americans to enter.
“We deny trips to Europe and vice versa. This is the position that we all sit in now and I think we are all taking seriously the need to find out how to resolve this,” said Pompeo. “We will work to make it right. We want to make sure that it is based on health and science. “
“We need to recover our global economy again,” he said.
The European Commission, which monitors the bloc’s laws, believes that “travel restrictions should not be lifted in relation to third countries where the situation is worse” than the average for the 27 EU member countries, in addition to Iceland, Liechtenstein , Norway and Switzerland.
The commission insists it is not trying to reach any country or that the list can be politicized as countries dependent on tourism across Europe are pushing for their borders to be opened again.
“The European Union has an internal process to determine which countries it would be safe to accept travelers from,” said spokesman Eric Mamer on Thursday, adding that his decisions were “based on health criteria”.