Travellers from Australia and 13 other countries will be allowed into the European Union as the bloc moves to open its border while minimising the threat of the coronavirus.
The European Council has now initiated the formal written procedure to pass the agreement, according to EU diplomats.
Among the 14 countries on the EU’s ‘safe list’, which is likely to be approved come July 1, are Canada, Thailand and New Zealand, along with Australia.
Travellers from the US and many other countries will still be barred from entering, EU diplomats told German news agency DPA.
Chinese citizens will be allowed into the EU in principle – but only once China lifts its ban on EU citizens, while Morocco is another possibility, although its government doesn’t plan to open borders until July 10.
However, despite the EU allowing Australians into the country, Aussies are currently unable to travel overseas as per the global travel ban the federal government enforced on March 18.
“There's a ban on overseas travel from Australia. This ban is administered by the Department of Home Affairs,” the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website says.
“You can’t leave Australia unless you seek an exemption from Home Affairs.”
Decision comes three months after EU closed borders
The agreement comes three months after the EU – plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – closed its external borders to all non-essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It follows weeks of intense discussions between EU member states about which countries the group should open its borders to and which ones to ban.
The rules will take into account epidemiological factors, such as the number of new infections, and whether the trend of cases is stable or decreasing.
EU diplomats confirmed that the list would be made public on Tuesday.
EU envoys in Brussels worked over the weekend to narrow down the exact criteria for countries to be included, mostly centred on their ability to manage the spread of the disease.
The countries on the list are also expected to drop any travel restrictions they have imposed on European citizens.
In addition to barring Australians from travelling overseas, non-Australian citizens are barred from entering the country
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said she wasn’t aware of pressure from the United States for the EU to reopen travel to its nationals.
She added that countries have been chosen according to their coronavirus statistics — whether similar or not to that in the EU — trends of contagion and how reliable their data is.
“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries, this is an exercise of self-responsibility,” the minister told Spain’s Cadena SER radio on Monday.
The list of ‘safe’ countries which will be allowed to travel within the EU would likely be reviewed every 14 days and countries might be added, while others dropped, depending on how the spread of the coronavirus is being managed.
The 27 nations which make up the EU and the four other countries that are part of Europe’s “Schengen area” appear to be on track to reopen borders between each other from Wednesday.
With AAP and AP
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