E.U. Plans to Bar Most U.S. Travelers When Bloc Reopens

BRUSSELS — The European Union is ready to bar most travelers from the United States, Russia, and dozens of other countries considered too risky because they have not controlled the coronavirus outbreak, E.U. officials said Friday.

By contrast, travelers from more than a dozen countries that are not overwhelmed by the coronavirus are set to be welcomed when the bloc reopens after months of lockdown on July 1. The acceptable countries also include China — but only if China allows European Union travelers to visit as well, the officials said.

The list of safe countries was completed by E.U. senior diplomats in Brussels after tortuous negotiations on how to reopen the 27-member bloc to commerce and tourism under a common set of standards after months of lockdown.

The list was backed in principle by most E.U. ambassadors and does not require unanimous support, but still needs to be formalized in member states’ capitals as well as in the central European Union bureaucracy before taking effect July 1. Diplomats did not expect the list to change.

E.U. officials first disclosed on Tuesday that the United States, which has reported more coronavirus deaths and infections than any other country, was highly unlikely to make the final list.

The exclusion of the United States, an important source of tourism to the European Union, represented a stinging rebuke to the Trump administration’s management of the coronavirus scourge.

Countries that made the safe list, which include Canada and Australia, were judged on a mix of scientific criteria that included their infection rates and the credibility of their public health reporting data. The list will be updated every two weeks, raising the possibility that excluded countries will be added.

The officials who revealed the contents of the final list spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of its official release next week.

Deciding how to carefully open up travel to outsiders and restart the economy without worsening an already precarious health situation in Europe has been contentious, with senior officials meeting for hours at least six times in the past few weeks.

European Union officials tried to base their decision on scientific criteria, in part to depoliticize the process and shield themselves from diplomatic pressures. But it’s proven to be difficult, and officials said the United States and other nations had been lobbying intensely to get on the safe list.

The United States, which banned most European Union travelers in March when the virus was raging in Europe, has not eased its own restrictions since then, even though European infections and deaths have dropped.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked on Thursday about the prospect of a prolonged ban on American travel to Europe, struck a conciliatory tone, but said that many European countries were eager to admit American visitors.

Source: NY Times