What do the new EU border rules mean for travelers?

(CNN) – The European Union has formally agreed on a set of recommendations that will allow travelers from outside the bloc to visit EU countries, months after it closed its external borders in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

As widely expected, the list of 14 countries does not include the United States, whose current rate of Covid infection does not meet the criteria established by the EU for it to be considered a “safe country”.

The criterion requires that confirmed cases of Covid in the countries on the list be similar to or less than those in the EU per 100,000 citizens during the previous 14 days (as of June 15).

Countries should also have a “steady or declining trend of new cases during this period compared to the previous 14 days”, while the EU will consider what measures countries are taking, such as contact tracking and how reliable the data is of each nation.

The United States has not only the highest number of reported coronavirus infections of any nation, currently 2,590,582, but also the highest number of deaths, at 126,141, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Infection rates in the US should drop dramatically if Americans are allowed to enter European countries, just as the European tourism industry enters what are traditionally its peak months.

The recommendations are expected to take effect from July 1, however, it is up to member states to decide exactly how to implement any changes in border policy.

Here are the answers to some key questions about the new rules:

Which countries are on the list?

The list of countries included in the recommendations are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.

China, where the virus originated, is not on the initial list of 14, but the EU is willing to put it on that list if the Chinese government corresponds and allows EU citizens to enter its borders.

If your country is not on the list, is it officially prohibited to join the EU?

Officially no. The European Union does not have control of the national borders of any member state. However, no country is expected to deviate from the recommendations to allow entry to a larger group of nations and is more likely to restrict travel from listed countries.

If your country is not on the list, but you are a resident of a country that is on the list, can you still travel to the EU?

Sadly not. According to the guidance, “residence in a third country for which restrictions on non-essential travel have been lifted should be the determining factor (and not nationality).”

Can you travel through another country to avoid the rules?

No, for the same reason as the previous one. You will be judged by where you live, rather than where you travel.

Will this apply to airlines and airports?

The EU Council stressed that “Member States remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation”, which means that this will vary from country to country. The best thing to do here is to contact your embassy or national embassy in the country you want to travel to.

How flexible are the recommendations?

This really depends on how you read it. The criteria and recommendations for implementation are very clear, but there is an annex in the recommendations that covers travelers with “an essential function or need.” These include everything from temporary farmworkers to diplomats. If you want to verify it yourself, go to page 10 of this document

When will the list be updated?

The list was expected to be reviewed every two weeks, however, EU diplomats emphasized to CNN that the criteria and methodology are “extremely unlikely” to change. This means that for a country to be considered safe, its reported Covid numbers must be lower than the EU’s for the past 14 days.

How will this affect UK travelers?

UK travelers are included in what the EU refers to as their “EU + area”, and will be included if UK governments decide they want to align.

The “EU + area” includes all member states of its Schengen visa area (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania), as well as the four Schengen associated states. It also includes Ireland and the UK if they decide to line up.

Are there any exemptions?

Travelers in countries not on the list can still enter if they fall under the following exemptions: EU citizens or relatives of an EU citizen; long-term EU residents or family members; those with an “essential function or need,” such as diplomats, health workers, or certain agricultural workers.

Are certain countries excluded for political reasons?

EU officials had previously emphasized to CNN that the decisions made this week are not political, but based on science and only aimed at protecting citizens from the virus that is re-emerging across the continent. However, those same officials await the response from the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who previously attacked the EU on other issues, such as trade and foreign policy.


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