Chi­nese among ci­ti­zens of 15 na­tions in the frame for travel to Europe

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By CHEN WEIHUA in Brus­sels chen­wei­hua@chi­nadaily.com.cn Mo Jingxi in Bei­jing con­trib­uted to this story.

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.

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