The European Commission has left the US and Russia off its recommended list of 'green light' countries.
Washington has expressed its disappointment that the European Union (EU) will be excluding most US travellers when it reopens its borders later this week.
“The EU’s announcement is incredibly disappointing, and a step in the wrong direction as we seek to rebuild our global economy,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president for Public Affairs for the US Travel Association.
The EU will begin reopening its external borders for the first time since March on July 1.
While the US has been left off a draft list of 'green light' countries who will be allowed to travel to the EU without restrictions, China has been included on the list along with fourteen other countries. However, visitors from China would only be allowed to enter Europe if Beijing drops its measures against EU travellers.
Countries expected to be approved include Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. The list will be reassessed and amended every two weeks.
There was no mention of China’s Special Administrative Regions, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, all of whom have been relatively successful in their handling of the pandemic.
Europe was among the world’s hardest hit areas when the pandemic spread to the region earlier this year, but most EU countries now have the virus under control. Despite local clusters since reopening borders internally, the bloc as a whole is now showing diagnoses that have slowed to 16 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.
Countries included on the ‘green’ list must have similar infection rates to the EU. However, European caseloads do vary; Sweden is currently struggling with 155 cases per 100,000, Portugal is second-worst with 44 and the UK comes in third with 24 cases per 100,000.
During the negotiations, southern European countries, such as Greece and Portugal, who are more tourist-dependent, are believed to have favoured approving more countries, while the generally richer north supported a more cautious approach.
Along with the US, travellers from Russia will also be banned.
Keen to avoid diplomatic tensions, a statement following the negotiations reiterated the health-based criteria underscoring decisions.
“The European Commission has an internal process to determine from which countries it would be safe to accept travellers,” said a spokesperson. “Our internal process is related, obviously, to considerations based on health criteria.”
“This is unwelcome news,” said the US Travel Association. “It will have major implications for an economic recovery - particularly if this ban results in cycles of retaliation, as is so often the case. In the US alone, travel-related jobs account for more than a third of lost employment due to the fallout of the pandemic. Health is paramount, and the public has a major role to play by embracing best practices such as wearing masks, but we are at a stage when it should be possible to make progress.”
The European Commission list is a recommendation, not a requirement, with each nation retaining ultimate sovereign control over its borders.