Diplomats, who were not allowed to discuss the issue before the 27 EU member states reached an agreement, confirmed to CNN that EU governments had given until Tuesday to agree on a list of 15 countries allowed to enter.
China, where the virus originated, is on the proposed list of 15 nations. However, the EU will offer China entry only by mutual agreement. The other 14 countries are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.
As widely expected, the U.S. – where the coronavirus is currently growing – will not be on that list.
The list is included in a set of EU Council recommendations to member states that set criteria for meeting countries before their citizens are allowed to join the bloc and a methodology for meeting those criteria. This requires that countries that are allowed to enter have coronavirus infection rates equal to or higher than the EU.
Ultimately, border control is decided by each member state, not at the EU level in Brussels. However, EU officials hope that the existence of the recommendations will mean that member states will reopen their borders in step.
Europe closed its external border in March after the bloc saw an exponential rise in the Covid-19 infection rate.
The U.S. now has the highest number of confirmed infections and the highest number of deaths caused by Covid-19 of any country in the world, the Coronavirus Resource Center of Johns Hopkins University said.
Diplomats said it was “very unlikely” that the framework would change any time soon, which would mean a dramatic reversal in the U.S. infection rate if considered in any subsequent decision. The EU is expected to review the decision every two weeks.
Member States are expected to approve the list and guidelines by qualified majority on Tuesday, rather than by unanimous decision.
A qualified majority requires that 15 of the 27 Member States vote in favor. The guidelines are expected to be opaque and open to interpretation in some areas, as at least three member states have expressed reluctance to open borders at all, diplomats said.
EU officials were quick to point out that decisions about who can and cannot join the bloc are not political, but based on science that allows member states to protect their citizens. These officials, however, are in favor of the reaction of US President Donald Trump, who has previously said very critical things about the EU and may see the decision as politically motivated.