Dust off that passport: Europe travel closer to reality after EU decision – but timing is unclear

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Wednesday took a step toward relaxing tourism travel for visitors from outside the bloc, with EU ambassadors agreeing on measures to allow fully vaccinated visitors in. However, it’s unclear when it will officially roll out the welcome mat.

They also agreed on easing the criteria for nations to be considered a safe country, from which all tourists can travel.

Up until now, the list only included seven nations: Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China, subject to reciprocity.

An updated list of countries that meet the new criteria is expected soon, and many experts expect the United States to make the next cut.

The EU imposed strict measures last year to contain COVID-19 outbreaks but the bloc’s 27 ambassadors now say many of those restrictions on non-essential travel should be eased. Specifically, tourists from outside the bloc who have been fully vaccinated should be allowed in. 

The EU “Council will now recommend that member states ease some of the current restrictions” for those who have been vaccinated, said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand.

“The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted,” said Wigand. The EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is to give advice on the list.

EU nations have been struggling throughout the pandemic to prop up their vital tourism industry and hope to recover some income over the peak summer season.

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