François Walcshaerts / AFP via Getty Images
Americans can now visit the European Union again, vaccinated or not. The European Council has updated its list of countries whose citizens and residents should be allowed to travel freely in the 27 member countries of the bloc, and the United States is finally participating.
But before you get on the plane, be aware that there can be pitfalls. In fact, there could be 27 different combinations of them. While the updated list released on Friday is a recommendation on who can be allowed entry based on the health situation in their home country, each EU government makes its own border decisions. This includes which nationalities to admit, whether to require PCR or rapid coronavirus antigen testing on arrival, and whether quarantine is mandatory. And while the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, urges countries to coordinate these rules with their neighbors to ensure mobility, this plea has often fallen on deaf ears.
And there is yet another factor that EU governments can take into account when deciding whether or not to grant access to American travelers: reciprocity. The US government has yet to lift its ban on non-essential travel by Europeans. This is a sensitive point. European Commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz explained: “It goes without saying that we would expect the same from partner countries outside the EU for European citizens traveling to these countries.
Tuesday’s US-EU summit gave new hope to Europeans wishing to head west.
“We have been assured that this is a matter of high priority for the US administration,” Jahnz said, adding that a joint task force met on Friday with the aim of “reviving safe and sustainable travel between the EU and the US “.
Alberto Alemanno, professor of law and EU policy at the HEC business school in Paris, believes that the reluctance of the United States to open its borders to European tourists is largely due to a “negative perception of the EU’s handling of the pandemic – notably, slow vaccination programs. In other words, Europe is not seen as safe [yet]. “
But Jahnz is optimistic that will change. “The epidemiological situation in the EU is improving”, he notes. “And of course we are putting in place a robust infrastructure to facilitate safe travel with the ‘EU COVID digital certificate'”, which is designed to facilitate cross-border recognition of tests or vaccine status.
“So we hope,” he added, “that we will also find workable solutions for the United States.”
Meanwhile, the European tourism industry is eagerly awaiting the return of its most profitable customers outside the EU. Last year was a “disaster”, said Jeroen Roppe, spokesperson for Visit.Brussels, the tourist communication agency in the Belgian capital. Normally, 80% of visitors to Brussels come from abroad, and many of them come from the United States, explained Roppe. “We are very happy to see American tourists coming back to our city.”
Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, the umbrella organization of tourism agencies across the continent, is also optimistic, but said important questions remain.
“We think it’s a good start, but we still have to read the fine print,” he said, urging future travelers to do the same. “It will probably be a few weeks before there is certainty about all the little things a traveler needs to take into account before coming to Europe, and in particular, the issue of mobility within the European Union.” if governments do not coordinate border regulations.
Santander warns that a lack of reciprocity for European travelers wishing to travel to the United States could possibly be a problem for Americans as well, as airlines will need people going both ways to resume flight routes. But he believes that by mid-July things will turn out well and that this year the peak tourist season could last until fall to meet pent-up demand.