In mid-June the European Union ended its travel ban against Americans. That has now been reversed, as the European Union has removed the United States from the “safe travel” list, which allows non-essential travel with few restrictions.
US removed from EU safe travel list
In March 2020 the European Union (or more accurately, the Schengen zone) closed its borders to people from most parts of the globe. Restrictions were lifted based on the epidemiological situation in each country, which meant that Americans were banned for well over a year.
That finally changed in mid-June 2021. At that point the United States was added to the European Union’s safe travel list. This was based on (at the time) the United States recording fewer than 75 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days, which is the threshold set by the European Union.
Unfortunately coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in the United States in the past couple of months, and we’re now at over 500 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days, and the numbers keep increasing.
European Union officials stated all along that the safe travel list could change based on how the situation evolves in each country, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. The European Union has taken the United States off its safe travel list, which (at a minimum) means that unvaccinated Americans will be banned from entering most European countries.
Ultimately this is justified — Americans had unrestricted access to the European Union due to how few cases there were in the country, and that’s no longer the case.
This doesn’t mean all Americans are banned
While the United States has been removed from the European Union’s safe travel list, that doesn’t necessarily mean Americans are suddenly banned from all European Union countries:
- The European Union can only make recommendations when it comes to entry restrictions, and individual countries can choose to keep their own policies in place; for example, Greece opened to Americans before the European Union recommended it
- Even with the European Union having removed the United States from the safe travel list, several European Union countries allow vaccinated travelers from non-safe countries to enter, so I suspect that will continue to be the case
- For that matter, even before this announcement we’ve seen individual European Union countries add restrictions against the United States due to rising case numbers; for example, Germany recently banned unvaccinated Americans
Is there an element of reciprocity here?
While the European Union’s travel restrictions have largely been based on the number of cases in a country, there has also been an element of reciprocity to the policy. For example, last year the European Union added China to its safe travel list, but only subject to reciprocity (which didn’t happen).
On some level I imagine there’s reciprocity at play here. The European Union lifted its travel restrictions against Americans, while the United States hasn’t lifted its travel restrictions against the European Union. The Biden administration has stated that it won’t lift travel bans for now, and it’s rumored that when restrictions are lifted, vaccination could be required for visitors. I’m all for only allowing in vaccinated visitors, but this should be implemented ASAP.
There’s no doubt that the lack of reciprocity has contributed to the policy change as well. And frankly it’s well deserved, because I’m not sure what part of the US policy is “following the science,” exactly:
- Getting vaccinated is the key to living with coronavirus, yet no travel restrictions have been created around vaccination status
- The United States’ travel bans don’t in any way reflect where coronavirus is bad right now; for example, Germans are banned from the United States, while others from countries with much higher case numbers aren’t banned
- A vast majority of the coronavirus cases in the United States are already from the delta variant, and we’re not going for a zero tolerance approach to coronavirus, so I’m not sure what exactly we’re trying to keep out
- So yeah, let’s let unvaccinated Americans party in Florida with no restrictions, while vaccinated people from the European Union can’t even enter the United States
I’ve been disappointed by the Biden administration’s complete lack of movement on these absurd policies. There seems to be such a bias towards baselessly maintaining the status quo, just because.
In mid-June the European Union put the United States on its safe travel list, allowing unrestricted travel to the European Union. This was based on the low coronavirus case numbers in the United States. With cases now increasing significantly, the European Union has removed the United States from its safe travel list.
Ultimately it’s up to individual countries to decide on their policies, and on top of that this ban is primarily against unvaccinated travelers. So while we’ll see how individual countries change their policies over the coming days, I’d expect that vaccinated Americans will continue to be welcome in most of Europe.
What do you make of the European Union removing the United States from the safe travel list?