The European Union may be about to lift restrictions on travelers from the United States. The decision on a proposal to add the United States to the European Union-wide white list is expected today. This would be a welcome next step in removing extreme travel restrictions that have been in place for over a year. On June 15th, Portugal, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, recommended the addition of the United States to the 'white list' of approved countries. In addition to the United States, Portugal proposed adding nine other countries to the list: Hong Kong, Albania, Lebanon, The Republic of Northern Macedonia, Macau, Taiwan, Serbia, and Saudi Arabia.
If approved, being part of the white list would allow travelers from the United States to enter and travel freely within the European Union without quarantine requirements. Entry would be controlled by individual countries, with the country of arrival responsible for providing a digital vaccine passport. It is currently very hard for travelers from the United States to transit at a European airport, but this restriction would be lifted with the U.S. inclusion on the white list.
The proposal is soon expected to be voted on by the European Union government envoys in Brussels, Belgium. Assuming there are no objections, the proposal will be passed, and the United States would be added to the white list. However, there could be objections or further delays. Nevertheless, while the inclusion of the United States to the white-list is good news for U.S. airlines and residents, the full benefit will not be seen until the United States lifts its own ban on entry from the European Union.
Unfortunately, these lifts will not impact travel for United Kingdom-bound passengers or for Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. The United Kingdom appears to be heading in the opposite direction, with a decision to extend domestic re-opening until later in the summer and is making no further progress with additions to its list for approved travel. The United Kingdom has, however, launched a task force to consider a United States-United Kingdom travel bubble.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been complicated travel restrictions in the European Union. This affected not only travelers from out of the European Union but also travel within the region. While there have been attempts to simplify the restrictions, different countries have adopted different rules during the pandemic. The travel industry is desperate for these rules to be simplified as well as for travel outside of the European Union. Starting on July 1st, travel within the European Union for vaccinated citizens should be possible using digital COVID certificates. Currently, the white list for entry to the European Union includes Israel, Japan, Australia, Rwanda, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand. China is only included if it confirms reciprocal agreements with the European Union. The proposed extension to the white-list is a welcome next step in the bounce-back of the travel industry.
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