The European Union (EU) has started to reopen its external borders to travelers from outside the bloc for the first time since March.
From July 1, international travel will resume to certain third countries. Visitors from these 15 states will be able to visit Europe this summer.
The decision was made after a vote by the European Council, who unanimously agreed on a list of 15 “safe” countries whose rates of infection are currently similar to those of the EU member states.
The move to allow international visitors to enter comes as the EU member states attempt to inject a much-needed boost to their tourist industries, which have been brought to a standstill by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
However, the Council’s recommendation is not legally binding and the individual countries within the European Union may decide not to permit visitors from all 15 nations to enter.
International travelers from the authorized countries are advised to consult global visa information and check the requirements for the part(s) of the EU they plan to visit.
Who Can Travel to Europe in Summer 2020?
After 5 days of debating, the European Council announced a shortlist of 15 countries with the recommendation that citizens of these states should be permitted to visit the EU this summer.
Travelers from the following countries will be allowed to visit countries in the EU (on the condition that the national government agrees to the European Council’s recommendation):
- China (pending agreement of reciprocation)
- New Zealand
- South Korea
This list will be updated every two weeks by EU authorities.
In addition to these 15 countries, 9 European countries that are not part of the EU are automatically considered “safe” and their citizens may currently travel to EU states unless the individual country has its own restriction.
These countries are:
- San Marino
- Vatican City
Of these 9, 4 are microstates closely associated with the EU, while 4 are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Schengen Area.
The final country is the UK, which is in its transition period of leaving the EU until the end of 2020. British citizens will have the majority of the privileges enjoyed by EU citizens until December 31.
Why Are These Countries on the List?
According to EU authorities, this list was compiled and agreed on based on several scientific factors. Countries had to meet the following criteria to be accepted:
- A COVID-19 infection rate less than 16 in every 100,000 infected
- A downward trend in coronavirus cases
- Sufficient social distancing and sanitary measures being upheld
Further countries may be added to the list over the coming weeks and months, depending on how the COVID-19 situation is being handled.
Will the List Apply for Travel to All EU Countries?
The EU has been divided on whether to reopen the external borders and which nationalities should be allowed to enter. Some countries, such as Germany and Spain, have been more cautious, calling for a shorter list, while tourism-dependent countries like Greece have pushed for more inclusive access.
The European Council reached a unanimous agreement on the 15 countries to initially include after several days of debates and discussions on the merits and risks of each candidate.
However, the result is a recommendation only. The government of each EU member state maintains the right to veto any or all of the countries on the list.
Additionally, the countries named on the list may change. It is likely that more will be added as the number of COVID-19 cases in that state falls. Conversely, countries that experience another spike in cases may be removed from the list.
Anyone planning a trip to Europe this year should bear this in mind and check visa requirements and travel information regularly.
The EU and Coronavirus Restrictions
The European Union took decisive action against the COVID-19 pandemic in March, implementing a travel ban for the whole bloc.
All member states restricted international travel from non-EU countries, only permitting flights repatriating EU nationals and travel deemed to be essential.
Citizens of EU countries were advised to avoid non-essential journeys. A number of EU states, such as Spain, prohibited their own citizens from traveling around the country unless the trip was unavoidable.
The ban on international travel from third countries to the EU was extended for one month on April 8 and then again on May 8. A final extension was recommended by the European Commission to continue the prohibition of non-EU visitors until the end of June.
What COVID-19 Measures Are Still in Place in the EU?
Many EU member states have already begun lifting lockdowns and domestic travel restrictions as the number of COVID-19 cases has continued to fall.
Most now permit visitors from fellow EU countries to enter, providing they comply with mandatory safety precautions to prevent the transmission of coronavirus, such as the following:
- Social distancing
- The wearing of masks in public places
- Using hand sanitizer when entering shops or restaurants
Visitors arriving from the permitted non-EU countries will be expected to follow the same rules and regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid a second wave.