Chinese among citizens of 15 nations in the frame for travel to Europe
The European Council adopted a recommendation on Tuesday to open the bloc’s external borders on Wednesday to citizens of 15 countries, including China, but not the United States.
The approved countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China.
But China’s inclusion is subject to confirmation of a reciprocal arrangement, according to the announcement. So far, China only allows what is deemed essential travel by visitors from European Union member states.
China will gradually resume exchanges of people with the EU in a safe and orderly manner on the premise of guaranteeing the COVID-19 prevention and control measures, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday.
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, China has been actively taking measures to ensure that visitors from the EU that are engaged in necessary activities, such as those covering trade, economic and science and technology spheres, can visit China, Zhao said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
The European Council stressed that the list will be reviewed and updated every two weeks. Criteria used to make decisions include the epidemiological situation and containment measures in a country, including physical distancing levels, as well as economic and social considerations.
More specifically, the number of new COVID-19 cases in a given country over the past 14 days, and per 100,000 inhabitants, should be close to or below the European Union average.
The country should also see a stable or decreasing trend in new cases over this period compared with the previous 14 days.
The European Council, which comprises 27 members, said Schengen Area-associated countries, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, are also taking part in this recommendation.
A majority decision
The recommendation is not legally binding, since member states have the final authority on its implementation. But the European Council stressed that a member state should not act to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.
Tuesday’s recommendation was decided by a majority of the EU’s 27 member states, rather than by unanimous agreement.
EU states adopted restrictions on nonessential travel from outside the bloc from mid-March when the pandemic was spreading rapidly on the continent.
EU officials point out that politics does not play a role in determining which countries make the travel list. Rather, such decisions are based on science, guided by the need for member states to keep their citizens safe.
The US, Russia, Brazil and Turkey are among those countries whose containment of COVID-19 is regarded as worse than that of the EU.
In the US, the EU’s travel list has generated headlines with the exclusion of the country hit hardest by the pandemic.
The US has reported some 2.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 127,000 deaths, by far the highest in the world. On Tuesday, it reported more than 47,000 new cases, according to a Reuters tally.
US President Donald Trump suspended the entry of all people from Europe’s ID check-free travel zone in March. The mutual ban is expected to further hit each side’s tourism industries.
Estimates put the number of US citizens visiting Europe at more than 15 million a year. And around 10 million Europeans cross the Atlantic for vacations and business each year, according to France 24, a French state-owned television network.