The diplomats, who were not permitted to discuss the matter before the EU’s 27 member states had reached an agreement, have confirmed to CNN that EU governments have been given until lunchtime Tuesday to agree on the list of 15 countries allowed entry.
On the proposed list of 15 nations is China, where the virus originated. However, the EU will only offer China entry on the condition of reciprocal arrangements. The other 14 countries are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.
As had been widely expected, the US — where the coronavirus is currently resurging — will not be on that list.
The list is included in a set of recommendations from the EU Council to member states, which set out criteria for countries to meet before their nationals are allowed entry to the bloc and the methodology for meeting that criteria. This requires that countries allowed entry have coronavirus infection rates equal to or better than the EU.
Border control is ultimately decided by each member state rather than at an EU level in Brussels. But EU officials hope that having the recommendations in place means the member states will reopen their borders in lockstep.
Europe closed its external border in March after the bloc saw its Covid-19 infection rates grow exponentially.
The US now has the highest number of confirmed infections and the highest number of deaths cause by Covid-19 of any country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
The diplomats said it was “highly unlikely” that the framework would be changed any time soon, which would mean a dramatic turnaround is required in the US’ infection rate if it’s to be considered in any future decision. The EU is expected to review the decision every two weeks.
Member states are expected to approve the list and the guidelines by qualified majority on Tuesday, rather than by a unanimous decision.
A qualified majority requires that 15 of the 27 member states vote in favor. The guidelines are expected to be opaque and open to interpretation in some areas, as at least three member states expressed reluctance to open borders at all, the diplomats said.
EU officials have been quick to point out that decisions on who can and cannot enter the bloc are not political, but based on science that allows member states to keep their citizens safe. Those officials are nevertheless bracing for the reaction of US President Donald Trump, who has previously said very critical things about the EU and might see the decision as politically motivated.