With the worst of the pandemic behind it, Brussels is hoping the Continent reopens in a more organized fashion than the way it closed down.
In March and April, as the coronavirus spread across Europe, the 35-year old Schengen Agreement that governs borderless travel between most EU countries was effectively abandoned. Countries boarded up without notice, citizens were left stranded, and European cooperation ground to an abrupt halt.
That began to be reversed on June 15 with countries starting to bring down barriers to travelers mainly from other countries in the bloc. On Tuesday, EU countries finalized the criteria that will determine whether a non-EU country is safe enough for its citizens to visit Europe (and vice versa, it hopes).
Capitals finalized an initial list of 15 countries, plus four European microstates. But the process is complicated by political and economic imperatives, Brussels limited authority and unreliable data.
Heres POLITICOs guide to what to expect.
What have EU countries agreed?
The EU has agreed to open much of the European Common Travel Area to some non-EU citizens from Wednesday, July 1. The EU has also decided that the countries it will open up to will be determined by their record of handling the spread of the coronavirus. In particular, whether the countrys infection rate is similar or lower to the EUs average; whether that rate is going up or down; the countrys overall capacity to deal with the virus (judging on its contract-tracing efforts and its health care system); and the reliability of the data it provides. The list will be updated every two weeks based on new data.
Who will be able to travel to Europe?
The list covers 15 countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China. But the EU also wants reciprocity from the countries — particularly China — that it opens to. China is still closed to nonessential travel from Europe, and it is unlikely EU countries will open to Chinese citizens if China doesnt do the same for Europeans after governments singled out reciprocity from China as essential. That may not be the case for other countries.
Will that happen immediately from July 1?
Ideally yes but national capitals ultimately have the authority over when they reopen and to whom. Ireland isnt in the Schengen area and is exempted from the recommendations. Denmark has special status that gives it an additional six months to implement the recommendations. Differences in opening up could complicate Europes internal borders. If Denmark is closed and Germany is open, theoretically non-EU travelers could arrive in Germany and go on to Denmark across an open border.
What about the US and other countries not on the list?
Theoretically, travelers from countries not on the list will not be allowed in. But again, it is up to national capitals to decide. The EUs recommendations are not binding, so ultimately countries can open up to whichever countries they like. Whether countries will open up to the likes of the U.S., India, Turkey or Egypt, say, will depend on how seriously they take the Councils recommendations.
Does the deal include the UK?
No. The U.K. is not part of the Schengen Agreement and can decide for itself which citiRead More – Source