Diplomats, who were not permitted to discuss the matter before 27 EU member states reached an agreement, confirmed to CNN that European Union governments had been given until lunchtime on Tuesday to approve a list of 15 countries that were allowed to enter.
In the list of 15 proposed countries is China, where the virus originated. However, the EU will only offer the entry of China 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 widely suspected, the US – where coronavirus is currently emerging – will not be on that list.
This list is included in a series of recommendations from the EU Council for member countries, which establish criteria for countries to meet before their citizens are allowed to enter the bloc and methodology for meeting those criteria. This requires that countries that are allowed to enter have a coronavirus infection level that is the same or better than the EU.
Border control is ultimately determined by each member country rather than at the EU level in Brussels. But European Union officials hope that the recommendation means that member states will reopen their borders.
Europe closed the external border in March after the bloc saw the rate of Covid-19 infection grow exponentially.
The US now has the highest number of confirmed infections and the highest number of deaths caused by Covid-19 from any country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Diplomats said it was “very unlikely” that the framework would change in the near future, meaning that a drastic change was needed in the level of US infection if it had to be considered in any future decision. The European Union is expected to review the decision every two weeks.
Member states are expected to approve the list and guidelines by the eligible majority on Tuesday, not by unanimous decision.
The majority that qualify requires 15 of 27 member states to vote in agreement. The guidelines are expected to be unclear and open to interpretation in some areas, because at least three member states have expressed reluctance to open borders at all, diplomats said.
EU officials quickly pointed out that the decision on who could and could not enter the bloc was not political, but based on knowledge that allowed member countries to maintain the security of their citizens. But the officials were prepared for the reaction of US President Donald Trump, who previously said very critical things about the EU and might see the decision as politically motivated.