BRUSSELS — The European Union will open its borders to visitors from 15 countries as of Wednesday, but not to travelers from the United States, Brazil or Russia, putting into effect a complex policy that has sought to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue.
The list of nations that EU countries have approved includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand, while travelers from China will be permitted if China reciprocates.
The plan was drawn up based on health criteria, and EU officials went to great lengths to appear apolitical in their choices, but the decision to leave the United States off the list — lumping travelers from there in with those from Brazil and Russia — was a high-profile rebuke of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Travelers’ country of residence, not their nationality, will be the determining factor for their ability to travel to countries in the EU, officials said, and while the policy will not be legally binding, all 27 member nations will be under pressure to comply. If not, they risk having their European peers close borders within the bloc, which would set back efforts to restart the free travel-and-trade zone that is fundamental to the club’s economic survival.
Still, some European countries, especially those in the south that see millions of visitors from all over the world throng to beaches and cultural sites during the summer, have been eager to permit more travelers in a bid to salvage their ravaged, and vital, tourism industries.
The United States was the first country to bar visitors from the EU in March as the pandemic devastated Italy and other European nations.
The bloc implemented its own travel ban in mid-March and has been gradually extending it as the pandemic spreads to other parts of the world. It had set Wednesday as the date to begin allowing non-EU travelers to return, even as Portugal and Sweden, both members, and Britain, which is treated as a member until the end of the year, still grapple with serious outbreaks. Others, such as Germany, are seeing new localized outbreaks drive up their national caseloads.