SHARE
COPY LINK

TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries but excludes US from safe travel list

EU countries have finally agreed to reopen their external borders on July 1st to visitors from 15 countries but American tourists will still not be allowed to travel to Europe because the US is still considered a risk due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

UPDATE: EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries but excludes US from safe travel list
AFP

The EU 27 member states on Tuesday gave the green light to a list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed to travel to European Union from July 1st.

A statement from European Council read: “The Council today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.”

The list of safe countries now provisionally includes China, although certain conditions have to be met, but it does not include the US, Brazil, India or Russia.

The other countries on the safe list are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The UK is not affected by the travel restrictions.

Americans planning to travel to Europe will be hugely disappointed the US has not made the list, but EU member states clearly decided the resurgence of the virus across the Atlantic, plus the huge number of cases and deaths meant the risk was still too high.

The US has seen over 2.5 million cases and suffered over 125,000 deaths, roughly a quarter of the global total. In recent days there has been a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in many states across the country.

China has also been provisionally approved as the 15th name on the list, but travel will only be allowed if Beijing also allows in EU travellers.

Reciprocity is a condition for all countries on the list.

But the final decision ultimately rests with member states because while the list has been agreed upon at a political level it is not legally binding. Border control remains a national competence and not something that is decided at EU level. 

The EU states: “A Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.”

The list will be reviewed every two weeks and adjusted depending on the latest coronavirus spread in each country.

Countries were included on the safe list if the coronavirus outbreak in the country was judged to be the same or better than that EU average. The bar was fixed at 16 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.

The EU and Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) lifted border controls for EU citizens travelling inside the bloc on June 15th and from July 1st will open their external borders.

UK nationals are treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December so can travel freely to Europe, although they may to have to enter quarantine on their return.

In 2016, some 12 million Americans travelled to Europe with Italy, France, Germany and Spain among the most popular destinations.

One study in Italy said the loss of American tourists would mean a loss of €1.8 billion in revenue.

Countries like France and Germany have along with the Commission stressed the need for a “common and coordinated approach” and don't want individual states going it alone.

The Commission has also made it clear the continued restrictions after July 1st wouldn't apply to EU nationals, those from Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) or non-EU nationals and family members who have their main residence in Europe “regardless of whether or not they are returning home”.

The Council's statement said: “For countries where travel restrictions continue to apply, the following categories of people should be exempted from the restrictions:

  • EU citizens and their family members
  • long-term EU residents and their family members
  • travellers with an essential function or need

The list needed a “qualified majority” of EU countries to be passed, meaning 15 EU countries representing 65% of the population had to agree to it.

As Reuters reports The move is aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations, particularly countries in southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens now?

The EU states: “This list of third countries should be reviewed every two weeks and may be updated by the Council, as the case may be, after close consultations with the Commission and the relevant EU agencies and services following an overall assessment based on the criteria above.”

“Travel restrictions may be totally or partially lifted or reintroduced for a specific third country already listed according to changes in some of the conditions and, as a consequence, in the assessment of the epidemiological situation. If the situation in a listed third country worsens quickly, rapid decision-making should be applied.”

Member comments

  1. If you’re already in the EEA (such as Ireland or UK) but not a foreign national and no residency, are you able to move between countries now if you don’t have residency?

  2. I’m an American residing in the U.S. and have tickets to fly on Air France next week from Berlin to Paris, which I will not be allowed to do under the new EU adopted regulations. I am now in the U.S. Does anyone know what Air France’s policy is on either refunding the cost of my ticket or giving me a credit or voucher, and if the latter, how long will I have to use it? No one has been able to find this out. Many thanks!

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRANSPORT

Costly flights, few trains: What’s travel like between Sicily and mainland Italy?

Sicily may be just a stone’s throw from mainland Italy but getting there and back is not always simple or fast, as Silvia Marchetti explains.

Costly flights, few trains: What’s travel like between Sicily and mainland Italy?

Transport connections between Italy’s largest island region and the main Italian cities are expected to improve in the long run, with the government hoping to use European pandemic recovery funds. But infrastructure investments take years to bear fruit. 

Taking a flight is of course the easiest and quickest way to reach Sicily, where there are three main airports – Palermo, Catania, Trapani – plus two minor ones on the southernmost Pantelleria and Lampedusa islands. But there are mounting ticket costs. 

The recent investigation launched by Italian authorities into alleged price-fixing on flights to and from Sicily during Christmas holidays by many low-cost airlines shows how fliers might have been left with little choice. Unless one is a Sicilian resident with access to privileged fares, the round trip is often costly.

I recently did an online search and found flights to Sicily are still quite expensive, costing roughly 300 euros for a return trip from Rome, even if booked well in advance. And not all Italian airports serve the destination. 

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

Paradoxically, it is often easier to reach Sicily from a European city such as London or Brussels than from an Italian one, and I often envy foreign friends who quickly find a much cheaper flight than I can from Rome. Others hop on ferry boats in southern France to land in Sicily. 

For those already in Italy, other options are traveling by train or car, which can still be hellish. Even though the A1 autostrada del Sole, the country’s backbone, has been completed, driving down the length of the country takes 12 hours – inclusive of meal and toilet stops – roughly 1,500 kilometers. I did it once, and it is crazy, but it depends on how much one loves driving.

All train connections end in Reggio Calabria or other southern regions, even the high-speed Italo takes 10 hours from Milan to the tip of the boot. The journey by train is less stressful than by car or plane, and costs roughly 280 euros for a round trip from Milan.

Travel to and from Sicily can often turn into a nightmarish odyssey. I’ve spoken to lots of Sicilians and foreigners who often embark on a 24-hour trip to get to Sicily from Rome and Milan. 

I remember once going to Linosa island for the summer holidays and having to take the plane to Palermo, then a long bus ride to Porto Empedocle to catch the midnight ferry, sleeping on a bench and waking up the next morning to stunning volcanic black scenery. I could have taken the plane to sister-isle Lampedusa and then a quick ferry boat, but the air fare was way over my budget. That trip lasted 28 hours, exactly the same amount of time as my past flights to Jakarta from Rome – but with added stress.

The ferry connecting Messina, Sicily with Villa San Giovanni, Calabria. Photo: Clare Speak/The Local

The government aims to revive the Messina bridge plan, an idea which has been floating in the air since 1866. I doubt things would change much. Many people would still drive their cars along the bridge rather than take the ecological high speed railway expected to be built on it.

To improve connections, transport must shift from the road to the railway tracks by increasing high-speed train services, as well as ferries, thus curbing CO2 emissions. High-speed sea connections to and from Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and other key mainland ports should also be increased.

READ ALSO: Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

The Messina bridge, which I seriously doubt will be built during this government’s five-year legislature, would just end up increasing road traffic. Locals and tourists in Calabria will be tempted to drive their car or motorino just three kilometers to grab a cassata cake in Messina. 

However, the real issue is not getting to and from Sicily, but getting around Sicily once you land there.

I had the chance to meet several Sicilian commuters who travel almost daily from a rural village to Rome, Naples or Milan for meetings. They wake up at three in the morning and return home at 11pm, up to four times a week. 

Island train and bus connections are rather poor so the car is their best option to get to the airport. However, bar the main highways, most Sicilian roads are a work-in-progress or in bad condition.

You never know where a Sicilian road trip might take you. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

I happened to experience an ‘adventurous’ road trip once from Catania airport to a tiny village in the province of Caltanissetta. According to the satellite map it was meant to take roughly two hours, but it turned out to be five, and I literally found myself in the middle of the countryside surrounded by sheep and ravines. Not quite the idyll I had dreamt.

Some highways were shut due to maintenance so I had to cut across unpaved rural roads without street lights, or deviate elsewhere which lengthened my trip (ravenous, I took five minutes to stop for a quick cannolo on the way).

It all depends on what degree of adventure travelers are seeking. Distances seem shorter for some foreigners than they do to Italians. Americans in particular and others from non-European Union countries are excited to drive from Milan to Sicily, for they can catch a glimpse of Italy in its entirety, or tour Sicily’s main archaeological sites in eight hours.

But many others I know, because of the poor state of Sicilian roads and regional connections, prefer to fly in and rent cars with drivers to take them to their destinations. 

The future of Sicily’s transport connections must be affordable and more frequent flights, high-speed railways and eco-friendly boats. Not new bridges and even more cars on the road.

SHOW COMMENTS