Most European countries have already lifted the travel ban and reopened their internal borders. Meanwhile, non-EU citizens have had to patiently wait their turn.
Now there’s finally some good news, at least for some of you. The EU has just decided to allow visitors from 14 countries deemed ‘safe’ from 1 July.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
“Micro-states” Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican and San Marino are good to enter too.
Congratulations to the winners!
Unfortunately, the United States, Brazil and Russia will have to wait some more.
On the other hand, China will be added to the list as soon as the Chinese government agrees to accept EU visitors in turn but this is still unlikely.
There have been 54 countries on the list at first but it has shrunk dramatically. It certainly hasn’t been easy for EU member states to agree on which countries to put on the safe list. It's been an exhausting, divisive process, mixing politics and economics, and public health.
There were disagreements between those such as Spain who want the boost of tourism, but still prefer to play it safe because they have been hit hard by Covid-19 - and others like Portugal and Greece, which depend on tourism but are less affected by the virus.
Germany was on Spain’s side and voted for a short list of countries with low infection rates, a good health service and reliable health data. However, Greece and Portugal wanted as long a list as possible.
On the other hand, France insisted on reciprocity. If a non-EU country is prohibiting flights from the bloc, they shouldn't appear on the list.
EU officials said that one condition for allowing a certain country in is for it to have an average Covid-19 rate around or better than the EU average of 16 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Moreover, the list had to be passed by a “qualified majority” of EU countries, meaning 15 EU countries representing 65% of the population.
After much debate, the final list is an attempted compromise. It will be further discussed and regularly updated to gradually add more and more countries.
However, the final decision actually rests with member states because while the list has been agreed upon at a political level, it is not legally binding. Border control remains a national competence, so some countries could decide not to follow the EU Commission’s recommendations, even though it has stressed the need for a "common and coordinated approach."
UK nationals are being treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
The UK is currently negotiating temporary "air bridges" with several EU member states, so that the coronavirus does not completely impede summer holidays and tourism.
However, anyone arriving in the UK still has to quarantine for 14 days, and non-essential travel is not yet recommended.
The European Commission has made it clear that the continued restrictions after 1 July won’t apply to EU nationals, those from Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) or non-EU nationals and family members who have their main residence in Europe, "regardless of whether or not they are returning home."
What's' more, it has stated that "member states should ensure those travelling to study are exempted, together with highly skilled non-EU workers if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad."
The travel situation is still a bit unstable as some countries’ Covid-19 rate of cases is rising again and others once again decide to ban them from entering. What a rollercoaster. Not all restrictions have been lifted around Europe yet.
However, more and more borders are being reopened, which gives us hope. The fact that the European Union now allows visitors from non-EU countries makes us even more optimistic. The list will be reviewed every fortnight and certainly expanded upon. We will follow the situation closely and keep you updated.