In most thorny European subjects it is as important to capture the photo with a wide angle as it is to read the fine print, but when it comes to reopening the external borders, what happens is quite the opposite: as the agreed date approaches , that of July 1, you begin to see that the letter is very large and the image is shrinking .
For weeks, Brussels had a calendar on its head: to reopen internal borders and free movement on June 15 and external borders, outside the EU, on July 1. The first objective was met, although countries like Spain chose to delay it for a few days for security reasons.
The second, the one that affects close neighbors but above all passengers and intercontinental tourists, maintains the deadlines, but leaves out of the beneficiaries most of the commercial partners and accepting only 15 sources.
Capitals have spent days unsuccessfully negotiating a white list . There are important discrepancies about the method and its effects. The basic idea has always been to use medical criteria. If you follow the recommendations and the numbers of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (which ironically is in Sweden, one of the countries with the worst figures) the number of daily cases registered is below average below 20 in all the EU.
In that sense, the differences between national displacements and within Schengen would be very small, so the decision to reactivate tourist travel has not been a major problem so far. However, for China, the US or Brazil, the same does not happen.
The proposals of the technical services were committed to setting this threshold of contagions or average daily cases for the EU, but it also puts other criteria on the table, such as the tendency of contagions to be down and not up and that governments have measures equivalent to community measures are underway, with proven capacity for tracking, monitoring and transparency of information. This raised some doubts about some countries that were still on the provisional white list.
Those accepted for now would be Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Rwanda in Africa. Uruguay (the only Latin American) and Canada. Serbia and Montenegro together with Georgia in Europe. And on the other side of the planet, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Thailand . According to the sources consulted, China would be included after accepting Beijing that community citizens can travel as well.
Until Wednesday, the rotating EU presidency is for Croatia, and its diplomats have tried to reach a consensus with the 27 permanent ambassadors in Brussels. But it was not possible over the weekend. This Monday, after dinner, a written procedure was finally launched, and the capitals have until Tuesday at 12.00 to respond through their Permanent Representations to the EU if they are in favor, against or abstain. And make comments.
Since the start of the pandemic, the EU has made all decisions by written procedure, the most unusual mechanism. The normal thing is that in the Council of the EU (or the European Council) everything is done in person, in meetings of ministers. But since there are legal doubts that a videoconference decision could be challenged before the Luxembourg Court of Justice, practically everything is done by written procedure.
Under normal conditions, what happened today should indicate that everything is on track enough, since the Croatian presidency had explained that it would not launch it until it had the support for approval by at least a qualified majority. And Spain, which had reservations, seems to agree with the guarantees presented. And it would be a key element for the green light.
A day to vote
Still, capitals have 20 hours to speak. And there are some cases in the air, such as that of Algeria, for example, which intends to continue with its own closed borders for a while longer.
There are internal discrepancies in the EU between more and less tourist countries. For cultural, language or historical ties, such as that of Spain with Latin America, which is left almost entirely. By usual passenger flows, which have created more recent links. And also for politics, because including one country and not others can generate discomfort, jealousy and diplomatic reactions.
The best example is the United States, which may react angrily, but in Brussels they recall that in March it was in fact the United States that closed the borders and cut off travel unilaterally.
There are those who press to one side and the other. It cannot or should not be done on an individual basis, because as most Member States are part of Schengen, once a tourist or visitor from outside the EU steps on a country, they could move throughout the Union.
And lack of coordination could lead to building internal walls again. Ireland and Denmark, in addition to the United Kingdom, are not part of this negotiation and can choose their own criteria, with limits. But Norway. Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which are in Schengen, should bow to what has been decided.
The list that circulated most strongly included some 15 countries and left the option of China in square brackets, making the inclusion of the giant dependent on reciprocity and that of European passengers. Brazilians, Russians and Americans, on the other hand, were left out in all the pools from the beginning.
"It is a decision made with caution and responsibility" and "not an exercise in diplomacy," said the Spanish Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, in an interview on Cadena Ser on Monday. "We consider countries that are safe at par or below the average of cases in the European Union ", he added, ensuring that" epidemiological criteria "will be maintained at all times and that the list will be" reviewed periodically ", and may be excluded at any time if necessary, to those who suffer dangerous outbreaks.
The external borders have been closed since March 17. Europeans could and can be repatriated at any time and the flow of goods and the entry of those who have permanent residence or essential personnel have been allowed, due to labor or health issues.
But not tourists or those who did not have their situation regularized. Now, in a first phase, of the 172 countries that could enter the EU (of them, around a third without a visa) only a dozen and a half will be able to do so.
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