The EU has decided that from Wednesday the EU’s borders will be reopened to citizens of 15 non-EU countries, including Canada, Morocco and Australia, but not the United States, Brazil and Russia.
China is on the list, but under a mutual agreement, is still pending, the BBC reported.
The unanimous decision of the European Council is not legally binding, so the states may decide not to open all countries.
Diplomats spent five days debating the list amid various epidemic concerns.
The so-called “safe travel destinations” are in addition to China: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
The United Kingdom and four other non-EU states – Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – are automatically included as “safe”.
The BBC’s Gavin Lee in Brussels says representatives from the US, Russia and Turkey lobbied hard to be included in the list.
EU officials said the decision was based on a number of scientific reasons:
Adequate confirmation of Covid-19 infection in the country (where less than 16 out of every 100,000 people infected in the country)
That case had a downward trend
Measures of social distance were at an “adequate level”
A diplomat from a northern European member state told the BBC that “a certain number of geopolitics had also influenced the decision” and “recommended the Balkan and Eastern European states” that the former Soviet state should include Georgia.
The Hungarian government is understood to have lobbied for Serbia’s inclusion. Spanish officials say they asked Morocco to stay on the list, but a mutual agreement was reached.
Denmark and Austria were among the few member states that argued for less than 15 countries.
But in the end the member countries unanimously accepted it.
Each state has to announce when it will start sending citizens from some or all countries.
French officials say they expect the decision to be implemented “in the coming days.”
The Czech Republic has published a list of eight countries that they consider safe to travel.
The EU list will be updated every two weeks.
Many border controls have been lifted to allow EU citizens to travel within the bloc. The future rules for UK travelers are part of the current Brexit discussion.
The European Commission says UK citizens will be treated the same as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition on 31 December.
So during this period UK citizens and their family members are exempted from temporary travel restrictions in the EU.
The European Union in the 226-member Schengen zone of the EU usually allows passport-free crossings for EU citizens, but national agencies have re-imposed restrictions in the crisis.
Europe is currently in talks with several EU member states for temporary “air bridges” so that the coronavirus epidemic does not completely block the summer holidays – Europe’s busiest season for tourism, which employs millions of people.
The EU talks were divided among people like Spain – who wanted to boost tourism, but preferred to play safely because they were hit hard by Covid-19 – and others like Greece and Portugal who rely on tourism but are less infected.