Twenty-seven European Union countries will begin welcoming travelers from select countries this week. But US citizens shouldn’t start packing their bags. The United States is not on the EU’s list of countries whose citizens will be allowed entry. That’s due to the COVID-19 situation in the United States and their standing ban on travelers from the EU.
President of the European Council, Charles Michel said in on Twitter that borders would begin re-opening on Thursday.
We are entering a new phase with a targeted opening of our external borders as of tomorrow.
#EU27 member states took this decision in a spirit of close cooperation.
We will monitor the situation regularly.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) June 30, 2020
Who is welcome into the EU and who is not
Citizens from the following countries will be welcome into European Union countries and four other countries in Europe’s visa-free Schengen travel zone (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein). The borders will be opening for Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. China will also make the cut pending confirmation of reciprocity.
For the remainder of the year, the United Kingdom will be treated as part of the European Union.
But the welcome mat is not being rolled out for United States citizens. This is primarily due to fast-rising COVID-19 infection rates in that country.
According to a statement issued by the European Council, eligible countries have to meet specific criteria, including;
- The number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100 000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average (as it stood on 15 June 2020);
- A stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days; and
- A country’s overall response to COVID-19.
A bar too high for the United States
Right now, that’s too high a bar for the United States. Also not on the entry list are citizens from Brazil, India, and Russia. On the plus side, the list of eligible countries will be reviewed every fortnight. On the negative side, the United States has banned incoming travelers from Europe’s ID check-free travel zone. In this matter, reciprocity clearly matters to the EU.
Further, the EU warns that what it gives, it can take away. In a statement released yesterday, the EU said;
“Travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country already listed according to changes in some of the conditions and, as a consequence, in the assessment of the epidemiological situation. If the situation in a listed third country worsens quickly, rapid decision-making should be applied.”
While the rate of COVID-19 infections continues to rise in the United States, hopes of the EU re-opening its borders for US citizens may remain some time off. That’s bad news for Europe’s tourist industry and airlines on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nearly three times the number of US citizens visit Europe compared to Europeans traveling to the United States. Cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and London usually do a brisk business on the back of US travelers. The United States Government says US citizens spent US$67 billion in the European Union in 2019.
Airlines take a hit from border closures
Also taking a hit are the big US airlines who normally crisscross the Atlantic. In 2019, transatlantic flying earned Delta Air Lines $6.4 billion or about 15% of overall revenue. United Airlines makes 17% of its total revenue from transatlantic flying. Last year, American Airlines gambled on pouring a lot of additional resources and capacity into transatlantic routes, taking them away from Asia and South America. It has proved a punt gone awry for American Airlines.
But all long haul US airlines are hurting because of the EU border closures. It is not helping the bottom lines of big European carriers like KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways, either. They usually do a lucrative business flying to the United States. But any hopes of a return to regular transatlantic service soon appear to be dashed.
While COVID-19 continues to rise in the United States and their borders remain closed to EU travelers, the EU is unlikely to welcome US travelers anytime soon.