Could the European Union really ban Americans again?

Aug 10, 2021

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The European Union is set to meet this week, and one of the issues they are expected to tackle is whether Americans should continue being allowed into the 27 member countries’ borders. Speculation has been rampant that the EU may vote to again ban Americans in light of the skyrocketing numbers of cases of the delta variant of COVID-19 in many parts of the United States.

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The Reuters news agency is reporting the European Union will review the list of countries eligible for relaxed entry rules sometime this week. According to an EU official quoted by Reuters, the block could vote to rescind the permissions granted to some Americans for entry that have been in place since earlier this summer.

Right now, the European Union has a so-called coronavirus safe list of two dozen countries, including the United States.

Naveed Jamali is a national security expert and the author of “How to Catch a Russian Spy.” He told TPG, “With the lack of a universal approach to masks and vaccines in the states, why wouldn’t the EU be worried about Americans bringing COVID? I’m worried about them spreading it here.”

It’s not just the delta variant that has the EU rethinking allowing in American tourists. Many Europeans remain angry that the U.S. is still closed to European tourists.

Related: Biden administration considering requiring vaccination for foreign visitors

As we reported last month, President Joe Biden told the press in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 15 July that an announcement on easing the restrictions could come “within the next several days,” but that hasn’t happened so far.

Bloomberg says the U.S. is now above the EU’s limit of no more than 75 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The current United States caseload is close to 270 cases per 100,000 — and increasing, according to Bloomberg.

A majority of the 27 member states would need to approve any ban, and it would remain up to individual countries to determine their own rules for entry.

European countries heavily reliant on tourism reopened their borders to vaccinated U.S. citizens early. They include Iceland, France, Spain, Croatia, Portugal and Greece — countries that may be unlikely to completely restrict Americans.

And any change in the rules is not imminent.

Bloomberg’s source says any ban on Americans would most likely not apply to those who are fully vaccinated. That would severely limit the impact on Americans since most European countries are already requiring vaccination for entry.

Tim Jue, a San Francisco-based reporter covering airlines and travel, told TPG if a full ban happens, it will be “heartbreaking for those travellers who have made or are making plans to travel to Europe again, myself included. And it’s going to further slow the recovery of international travel, which will be a bigger disappointment for those who depend on open borders to make a living.”

JohnnyJet founder and editor-in-chief John E. DiScala told TPG, “I don’t blame the EU for potentially banning Americans with our out-of-control COVID-19 numbers and most Americans’ blasé approach. The good news [is] if they do follow through with the ban, I bet some countries like Greece will still allow us to enter without quarantine.”

Any new restrictions would hit the EU’s travel sector hard. The resumption of transatlantic flights has helped the EU aviation market recover a bit over the past few months. Bloomberg reports that, according to OAG data, European airlines are currently at 70% of pre-pandemic capacity.

The EU reopened to fully vaccinated American tourists beginning in June.

Travellers to most EU countries already have to be vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved in the EU, which means any vaccine approved for use in the U.S. will be accepted — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer.

Brian Summers, editor-at-large for travel site Skift, and told me:

“As travellers, most of us want to get back to normal as soon as possible. We certainly don’t want to backslide. An intrepid group of Americans returned to Europe this summer, having fun like the good old days. But we must remember we are still in the midst of a once-in-century pandemic. The worst is probably past us, but the recovery path is not linear. If Europe thinks its best course of action is to limit American visitors, travellers will need to accept it. On the bright side, peak tourism season is nearly over. Let’s hope by next summer it is all sorted out and Americans can return, en masse.”

Jue said, “This recovery is going to be one step forward, one step backwards. We may hit some speed bumps, but I’m confident these closed borders are only temporary and won’t last as long as they did last year. Not with safe, effective vaccines out there.”

Additional reporting by Victoria Walker and Caroline Tanner.

Feature image by Claude Gariepy/Getty Images.

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