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UPDATE: EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries but excludes US from safe travel list

EU countries have finally agreed to reopen their external borders on July 1st to visitors from 15 countries but American tourists will still not be allowed to travel to Europe because the US is still considered a risk due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

UPDATE: EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries but excludes US from safe travel list
AFP

The EU 27 member states on Tuesday gave the green light to a list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed to travel to European Union from July 1st.

A statement from European Council read: “The Council today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.”

The list of safe countries now provisionally includes China, although certain conditions have to be met, but it does not include the US, Brazil, India or Russia.

The other countries on the safe list are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The UK is not affected by the travel restrictions.

Americans planning to travel to Europe will be hugely disappointed the US has not made the list, but EU member states clearly decided the resurgence of the virus across the Atlantic, plus the huge number of cases and deaths meant the risk was still too high.

The US has seen over 2.5 million cases and suffered over 125,000 deaths, roughly a quarter of the global total. In recent days there has been a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in many states across the country.

China has also been provisionally approved as the 15th name on the list, but travel will only be allowed if Beijing also allows in EU travellers.

Reciprocity is a condition for all countries on the list.

But the final decision ultimately rests with member states because while the list has been agreed upon at a political level it is not legally binding. Border control remains a national competence and not something that is decided at EU level. 

The EU states: “A Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.”

The list will be reviewed every two weeks and adjusted depending on the latest coronavirus spread in each country.

Countries were included on the safe list if the coronavirus outbreak in the country was judged to be the same or better than that EU average. The bar was fixed at 16 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.

The EU and Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) lifted border controls for EU citizens travelling inside the bloc on June 15th and from July 1st will open their external borders.

UK nationals are treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December so can travel freely to Europe, although they may to have to enter quarantine on their return.

In 2016, some 12 million Americans travelled to Europe with Italy, France, Germany and Spain among the most popular destinations.

One study in Italy said the loss of American tourists would mean a loss of €1.8 billion in revenue.

Countries like France and Germany have along with the Commission stressed the need for a “common and coordinated approach” and don't want individual states going it alone.

The Commission has also made it clear the continued restrictions after July 1st wouldn't apply to EU nationals, those from Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) or non-EU nationals and family members who have their main residence in Europe “regardless of whether or not they are returning home”.

The Council's statement said: “For countries where travel restrictions continue to apply, the following categories of people should be exempted from the restrictions:

  • EU citizens and their family members
  • long-term EU residents and their family members
  • travellers with an essential function or need

The list needed a “qualified majority” of EU countries to be passed, meaning 15 EU countries representing 65% of the population had to agree to it.

As Reuters reports The move is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens now?

The EU states: “This list of third countries should be reviewed every two weeks and may be updated by the Council, as the case may be, after close consultations with the Commission and the relevant EU agencies and services following an overall assessment based on the criteria above.”

“Travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country already listed according to changes in some of the conditions and, as a consequence, in the assessment of the epidemiological situation. If the situation in a listed third country worsens quickly, rapid decision-making should be applied.”

Member comments

  1. If you’re already in the EEA (such as Ireland or UK) but not a foreign national and no residency, are you able to move between countries now if you don’t have residency?

  2. I’m an American residing in the U.S. and have tickets to fly on Air France next week from Berlin to Paris, which I will not be allowed to do under the new EU adopted regulations. I am now in the U.S. Does anyone know what Air France’s policy is on either refunding the cost of my ticket or giving me a credit or voucher, and if the latter, how long will I have to use it? No one has been able to find this out. Many thanks!

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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

Several French unions have filed strike notices for February, with some aiming to target to busy February holiday period - here's what you can expect.

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

France is in the grip of a major confrontation between unions and the government over plans to reform the pension system.

So far, the main actions have been concentrated on one-day strikes that are supported by all eight of the union federations, however an increasing number of unions are filing notices for renewable or unlimited strikes, with some targeting the February holidays.

The French minister of tourism, Olivia Gregoire, called on unions to respect the “sacred period” of school holidays (which in France run from February 4th to March 6th, depending on which zone you are in).

Meanwhile, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told RTL that if the government remains stubborn then “there is a possibility of days of action during the school vacations”.

As a result, it is likely that further notices will be filed.  The Local will update this story with the latest – but here’s what we know so far.

January actions

Tuesday, January 31st – this is the next one-day mass strike, which will likely see severe disruption on many services, particularly public transport – full details here.

February actions

Trains – two rail unions – the hardline Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots – have filed a renewable strike notice for “mid-February” in addition to a two-day strike which is to take place on Tuesday, February 7th, and Wednesday, and 8th. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Ski resorts – two of the largest unions representing French ski lift operators and seasonal workers, FO (Force ouvrière) and the CGT, have filed “unlimited” strike notices starting on January 31st – the same day that unions across other sectors have called for another ‘mass strike’.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the strike will continue throughout February, but unions say they want to put pressure on the government to discuss both pensions and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affect ski industry employees.

The CGT union in particular has threatened further actions during the Ski World Championships, held in Courchevel from February 6th to February 19th. Strikes in ski resorts usually primarily affect the operation of ski lifts. You can read more here.

Oil refinery workers – refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. 

The national union coordinator for French oil giant, TotalEnergies, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions would result in “lower throughput” and “the stoppage of shipments.”

The most concrete effect of this is likely to be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

Power cuts – the hardline CGT have also threatened more “direct action” with employees of the State electricity sector threatening to cut the power to certain towns. This isn’t a scheduled action (or indeed a legal one, the government has promised to prosecute workers who do this) but short targeted power cuts could continue into February.

UK border – finally, if you are travelling to or from the UK, be aware that a UK Border Force strike is planned for February 1st and 2nd, which is likely to increase waiting times at the border.

We will update this story as more details are released, and you can also find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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