BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - The European Union lifted travel restrictions for US residents, in the latest step toward a return to normalcy despite concerns over the spread of potentially dangerous coronavirus variants.
EU governments decided on Friday (June 18) to add the US, along with Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Serbia, and Taiwan to a so-called "white list" of countries from which non-essential travel is allowed.
The new rules will be in effect in a matter of days, as soon as they are published in the Official Journal of the EU.
While some EU member states already allow vaccinated Americans to visit, inclusion in the white list means that restrictions on US residents will be lifted across the bloc. It also means that member states are free to allow quarantine-free travel from the US independently of vaccination status.
The move will provide a boost for major EU airlines such as Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa, which along with their American counterparts rely on the profitable transatlantic corridors. Long-distance travel has been hit hard by restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
Still, traffic across the Atlantic is not fully restored, as US presidential proclamations banning Europeans from visiting are still in place. The EU is pushing Joe Biden's administration to reciprocate by lifting curbs for its citizens, as vaccinations across the continent progress and the number of coronavirus infections is falling sharply.
Some diplomats in Brussels were wary of allowing Americans to return before the US agreed to reciprocate. The bloc decided to go ahead came amid pressure from the tourism-dependent economies ahead of the summer season.
The expansion of EU's white list, which already included Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Thailand comes as internal travel within the bloc is being restored for those who are vaccinated or can prove that they have recently recovered from the virus. As of July 1, holders of so-called digital Covid-19 certificates will be able to move freely anywhere in the EU's 27 member states 14 days after the last shot.
The UK is also considering allowing quarantine-free travel for those who have been fully inoculated, in what would offer a major boost to southern European economies, for which Britain is a major tourist market.