Brussels Airport, Belgium.
The European Union is discussing how to reopen its external borders as the region looks to slowly revive its economy, with visitors from countries like the United States potentially still being barred from entering the bloc.
Thirty European countries decided to close their external borders in March to contain the spread of Covid-19. The travel restriction has been extended three times but it’s now due to end on Tuesday.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, suggested earlier this month that European nations should open their internal borders by June 15 and slowly lift the travel ban on foreign visitors from July 1. The Commission also said that reopening external borders should be a coordinated exercise among European governments and reviewed on a regular basis.
“It is way too early to say which countries will be in the list,” an EU official told CNBC on Wednesday, referring to which non-EU countries may be granted access.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, added that representatives of the EU governments on Wednesday discussed the criteria for lifting the travel restrictions from abroad. That meeting finished without an agreement and representatives will meet again on Friday.
At the moment, the main requirement would be the coronavirus infection rate in the country of origin, the official said.
This means that countries with high rates, such as the United States and Brazil, could remain barred from entering European nations, at least for some time.
A second EU official, who also didn’t want to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks, told CNBC: “The gradual reopening of EU external borders will be based on risk assessments based on best available scientific evidence. Travel from some third countries is likely to be allowed only a bit later, health situation allowing. Not decided yet which countries that would apply to, but (the) U.S. unfortunately is a candidate.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 9 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide. The U.S., Brazil and Russia have the most cases. As of Monday, the seven-day average of daily new cases in the U.S. increased more than 30% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data.
A third EU official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations, told CNBC that there isn’t yet a final confirmed list of foreign nations that will be removed from the ban. Two other sources confirmed the same information to CNBC while The New York Times reported Tuesday that travelers from the United States would likely remain excluded.
The Commission recommended earlier this month to lift restrictions for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia “given that their epidemiological situation is similar or better than that of the EU.”
The first EU official said the list of countries that will see travel restrictions lifted is likely to be “quite limited” with no more than 10 to 15 countries to start with.