The European Union is officially recommending that the 27-member bloc lift restrictions on US travelers, a long-anticipated move that will allow a return to near-normal travel with the continent for the first time since the pandemic began, according to diplomats.The European diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement planned for Friday. EU ambassadors decided Wednesday to approve a proposal to add the United States — along with Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia — to its “white list” of places where nonessential travelers are allowed in from across the bloc, sources said. Although this list is nonbinding, it seeks to harmonize travel rules across the European Union. Some European countries, including Greece, Portugal, and Spain, are already accepting vaccinated US travelers.
Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved a European Commission proposal from May 3 to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere.The full resumption of transatlantic travel still has one further hurdle: The United States has yet to say when it will reciprocally lift its ban on E.U. travelers, although that move is similarly expected within weeks.Inclusion on the “white list,” created in June 2020, means E.U. countries can accept travelers regardless of their vaccination status, although each individual country can set its own requirements for entry and quarantine. Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand are among the countries already on the list.
Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries, including Australia, Israel and Singapore, can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. The current main criterion is that there should be no more than 25 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days. The trend should be stable or decreasing and there should be a sufficient number of tests, which would need to show a minimum percentage of negative tests. Variants of concern can be taken into account.
The resumption of travel will be a major boost to tourism-dependent economies across the continent. Following a slow start to vaccine rollouts, European officials and policymakers hope that the bloc will reach herd immunity by July. So far, around 45 percent of the nearly 450 million E.U. residents have been inoculated with at least one shot, and around half of those have been fully vaccinated.Earlier this week, the E.U. Parliament also formally approved legislation to create a digital certificate system starting July 1 that would scrap quarantine requirements for people who can prove they are vaccinated or that they have recently recovered from covid-19 or tested negative for the virus.