When will travel to Europe resume?

The European Commission wants to start in a controlled manner with opening the borders to countries outside the EU. The European Council, in which the member states are represented, must draw up a list of countries from which travelers can travel to the EU from that moment on. The security situation in connection with the corona crisis in those countries must therefore be comparable to that in the EU, and countries in turn must also admit travelers from the EU. The list is expected to be short, but more and more countries can be added. There are already countries in the European Union that allow travelers from outside, especially tourists.

The external borders have been closed for non-essential journeys since mid-March 2020. US President Trump angered the EU in March 2020 with an unexpected entry ban on Europeans.

What should be the criteria for reopening? Which countries are allowed and which are not? These days, that is the fuel for heated discussions and the proverbial EU divisions. While this is precisely an area where such coordination is a dire necessity: if one country allows travelers from US, for example, and another does not, the newly opened EU internal borders will again come under pressure.

Most politically sensitive is the question of whether the EU border with the United States will reopen. According to the EU, the pandemic in US is still far from being under control. The US is in danger of being placed on the same “black” list as Brazil and Russia, among others. That is of course a sensitive diplomatic matter. The discussion about the criteria and the country list goes between the flexible and the precise. The first group consists of the EU countries that are highly dependent on tourism. They want to open as much as possible as soon as possible to save some of their summer season. The other camp, urges caution.

This cautious line should be supported by neutral, scientific criteria about contamination numbers. In this way, it would also be better to justify the fact that enforcement of an entry ban from the US has no political background. A possible measure is the number of new Covid-19 infections (over the past two weeks) per 100,000 inhabitants. For the EU, according to recent figures, that number is about 16; 107 for the US, 190 for Brazil and 80 for Russia. However, many other criteria can be considered. An additional problem is that developments within large countries can vary widely. For example, New York has seen the worst, but many other American states have not yet. China as a country is now in a safe haven, but a new wave of contamination in Beijing did cause unrest.

In addition to this technical discussion of scientific criteria, there is an inevitable political element: reciprocity. Some countries say: if we allow travelers from certain countries again, they will have to do the same with EU citizens. That is a political process.
It is intended that the country list will be updated every two weeks.