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EU nations agree to start lifting travel restrictions on American tourists

People stand in front of a classical fountain.
Tourists throw coins into the Trevi fountain in Rome.
(Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)

The European Union is recommending that member countries start lifting restrictions on tourists from the United States.

EU members agreed Wednesday to add the U.S. to the list of countries from which restrictions on nonessential travel should be lifted. The move was adopted during a meeting in Brussels of permanent representatives to the 27-nation bloc.

The recommendation is non-binding, and governments of individual EU nations continue to have the authority to require test results or vaccination records and to set other entry conditions.

The EU has no unified pandemic tourism or border policy but has been working for months on a common digital travel certificate for those who have been vaccinated, received a negative coronavirus test or recently recovered from the virus. EU lawmakers endorsed the plan last week.

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The free certificates, which will contain a QR code with advanced security features, will allow people to move between EU countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests upon arrival.

Several of the bloc’s nations have already begun using the system, including Belgium, Spain, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The rest are expected to start using it July 1.

Europe is opening up to Americans and others after more than a year of coronavirus restrictions, but travel rules across the Continent are patchwork.

It’s mainly meant for EU citizens, but Americans and others can obtain the certificate, too — if they can convince authorities in an EU country they’re entering that they qualify for one. The lack of an official U.S. vaccination certification system may complicate matters.

Some individual EU countries have already started allowing in American visitors. But Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said this week that a careful and phased-in approach should remain the rule.

“Let’s look at science, and let’s look at the progress. Let’s look at the numbers, and when it’s safe, we will do it,” De Croo said. “The moment that we see that a big part of the population is double-vaccinated and can prove that they are safe, travel will pick up again. And I would expect that over the course of this summer.”

In addition to the U.S., the representatives of EU nations added five other countries and territories — North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Lebanon and Taiwan — to the tourist travel list. The European Council updates the list based on epidemiological data. It is reviewed every two weeks.

The representatives also decided to remove a reciprocity clause for the Chinese regions of Macao and Hong Kong.

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The recommendations are expected to be formalized Friday.


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