Greece is among the European countries that have not followed an EU recommendation to curb nonessential travel for visitors from the United States and has kept its borders open for American tourists.
The European Council on August 30 removed a total of six countries and territories, including the US, from the list of safe third countries for non-essential travel into the EU due to the surge in coronavirus (Covid-19) infections and hospitalizations that have been recorded in those areas.
The Council recommended for EU member states to reintroduce temporary entry bans or travel restrictions for visitors from the six countries and territories. Along with the US, also dropped from the EU’s list were Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
However, the Council’s recommendation is not a legally binding instrument.
Greece keeps US on ‘safe list’
A revised aviation directive of Greece has kept the US on the country’s “safe list” of non-EU countries and territories whose residents are eligible to enter Greece, provided they have the required documentation (proof of vaccination or prior infection or negative Covid test, among other things).
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a Greek official said Greece will continue to welcome American visitors for the rest of the tourist season, while maintaining close monitoring at the Greek border.
Greece has also kept Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia on its “safe list” as well.
According to reports, other European countries that have not shut the door to American visitors include Germany, France, Norway and Portugal.
EU’s recommendation receives criticism
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is among the travel and tourism sector bodies that expressed disappointment to the EU’s recommendation for member states to impose travel restrictions on US visitors.
“The EU’s recommendation to reimpose restrictions on U.S. travellers is a step backwards and will only slow down the recovery of the sector,” said WTTC President & CEO Julia Simpson.
“With high vaccination levels in both the U.S. and the EU, we should be looking at opening up travel between these two major economies,” she said, adding that a common set of rules that recognise global vaccines is needed and the need to quarantine for people with a negative COVID result must be removed.
“The U.S. is a key source market for many EU Member States, such as France, Italy, Germany and Ireland, and tourism will be critical in restoring normal life and tens of thousands of jobs in both the U.S. and the EU,” Simpson said.
“Rather than imposing further damaging travel restrictions, the EU should be encouraging Member States to use its groundbreaking Digital COVID Certificate to safely restore international travel, fundamental for the European economy,” she added.
The US was included on the EU’s safe list on June 18 and US tourists were allowed to enter Europe for summer holidays. However, the Biden administration did not reciprocate and until now the borders of the US remain closed to EU citizens.
The lack of reciprocity made European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas cancel a planned trip to the US.
Speaking during the recent European Forum Alpbach in Austria, Commissioner Schinas said the US entry ban “makes no sense” and added that the lack of reciprocity on travel rules was not fair.
“Europe is the most vaccinated continent in the world,” the commissioner said.