Travel to Europe: EU 'safe travel' allows Australians, excludes Americans

The European Union wants Australian tourists to start travelling again after creating its first "safe list" of 14 countries from which the bloc will allow non-essential travel in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

Travellers from the "safe list" countries will potentially be able to go to Europe and then travel freely throughout the Schengen area, which includes 22 EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The 14 countries on the list are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The list will be reviewed every two weeks to add some countries and remove others. It is only a recommendation to EU members, who can still impose some travel restrictions. The idea at least is that they should not open up to other countries.

The creation of the list will put pressure on the Federal government which has banned Australians and permanent residents from travelling until September 21, with indications regular overseas trvel would resume until next year.

The 27-member European Union bloc gave approval on Tuesday to leisure or business travel from 14 countries beyond its borders, the Council of the EU, which represents EU governments, said in a statement.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors. Reciprocity is a condition of being on the list.

Russia, Brazil and Turkey, along with the United States, are among countries whose containment of the virus is considered worse than the EU average, and so will have to wait at least two weeks for approval. The bloc will carry out fortnightly reviews.

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.

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The list needed a "qualified majority" of EU countries to be passed, meaning 15 EU countries representing 65 per cent of the population.

It acts as a recommendation to EU members, meaning they could potentially set restrictions on those entering from the 14 nations and will almost certainly not allow access to travellers from other countries.

Within hours of the EU announcement, Italy, which has one of the highest COVID death tolls in the world, said it would opt out and keep quarantine restrictions in place for all nations that were not part of the free-travel Schengen area.

"The global situation remains very complex. We must prevent the sacrifices made by the Italians in recent months have been in vain," Italy Health Minister Roberto Speranza said.

The EU's efforts to reopen internal borders, particularly within the 26-nation Schengen area which normally has no frontier checks, have been patchy as various countries have restricted access for certain visitors.

Reuters

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