European Union member states have drawn up a list of safe non-EU countries to open borders to.
14 non-EU countries and four states can enter the EU, including those coming from Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Serbia, as well as North African countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
In contrast, the United States, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, North Macedonia and Albania were excluded from the list.
The list also includes China, provided it implements a reciprocity policy and allows EU nationals to travel to China.
The crucial criterion for inclusion in the list was the epidemiological data of the countries under consideration, which had to be corresponding or lower than the EU average (16 cases / 100,000 population in the first fortnight of June). However, some Member States have sought to include countries with the highest number of cases, such as Portugal's persistence, which was ineffective, to include Brazil in the second phase of the list.
For Athens, further delays in opening up to the rest of the world threatens to deal another major blow in efforts to save the tourist season. Greece in meetings with permanent representatives of the member states, expressed strong objections to the prospect of further extension of travel bans.
Yesterday afternoon, the Greek government announced that it would open the country's gates to the rest of the world, with the exception of nine countries, signalling its intention to move unilaterally.
Countries that, under different circumstances, would be its natural allies in pursuing the fastest possible opening, have taken a more cautious stance due to the severe health blow suffered by the pandemic. Italy has been particularly cautious in its discussions, noting that the opening of the Schengen area was enough for tourist movements and that there was no reason to take any further risk by opening the external borders.
Spain, for its part, despite being in a better position to Italy, made it clear that it did not intend to open unilaterally unless there was an agreement. "It is a vital agreement at the European level," the Spanish government spokesman said yesterday.
However, there are concerns that the list needs to be updated every two weeks.
Northern countries such as Sweden, Denmark (which originally intended to keep its borders closed even with EU countries until August 31), Finland and the Netherlands made sure the initial list of countries was small enough.
"It is important for us that there is an agreement at a European level to open the borders and that this agreement is based solely on health criteria," a Dutch diplomat said.
In case of disagreement and unilateral opening of Member States to third countries, he warned, "we may be forced to close our borders" to that Member State.
Border policy is the responsibility of Member States. The European Commission since the beginning of the health crisis has taken steps to promote the coordination of Member States in this area and to restore free movement within the Schengen area - but with limited success. Union member states have reacted to the coronavirus outbreak in Europe by closing their borders even to other Schengen members.