Frustration welcomes EU decision to maintain travel restrictions in US and UK | Voice of America
Have the European Union’s restrictions on travelers from the United States, Great Britain and some other major nations become politicized? The managing director of Wizz Air, the low-cost airline based in Budapest, thinks so.
“I think the European Union as such has completely collapsed,” JÃ³zsef VÃ¡radi told CNBC this week. “We failed to come up with unified measures and an orchestrated approach to deal with the situation, and it has become incredibly overpoliticized.”
He is not the only one to express his frustration. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, a rival low-cost airline based in Dublin, urged politicians to recognize “it is time for us to get on with our lives”. Ryanair recorded the biggest annual loss in the company’s 35-year history last month, due to travel restrictions and COVID-19 lockdowns that wiped out air traffic. That turned the previous year’s $ 1.24 billion profit into a loss of $ 990 million in the 12 months leading up to March 31.
The EU’s decision on Thursday to urge member states to maintain the ban on tourists and other non-essential travelers from the United States and Britain, among other non-EU countries, has left many European commercial aviation and hospitality players furious at what they see as the delayed pace of easing travel restrictions for tourists.
Lack of uniformity
They say the European Commission is being too cautious and they are also impatient with the lack of uniformity among member states in reopening their countries to tourists this summer in the northern hemisphere. Most national governments have implemented the EC’s strict travel recommendations, but others have not in recent weeks, further complicating travel into the bloc from outside, especially for those who cannot take direct flights to their destinations.
Some member states have also imposed restrictions on travel from other EU countries, turning the once borderless bloc and Schengen area into a complicated puzzle of rules and requirements.
Italy, Portugal and Greece, member states of the Schengen area, and Croatia, a member of the EU, have all ignored Brussels and have cautiously opened up their tourism-dependent countries to travelers, notably the United States and Britain, which vaccinated more of their populations than the EU. Italy began easing travel restrictions for Americans and Britons in mid-May, although quarantines still apply often. Americans can travel on safe COVID-19 flights to Italy, which require multiple coronavirus tests.
American and British travelers are essential to the European tourism industry. Americans made more than 36 million trips to Europe in 2019. The total number of tourist visits by British residents to the European Union reached 67 million in the same year.
EC maintains a list
The EC has a âwhite listâ of countries with low infection rates including Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. Travelers from these countries, whatever the reason for their trip, are welcome, as far as the EC is concerned. Japan was added to the list midweek. China is also on the white list, subject to reciprocity by the Chinese government.
The 27 EU member states have been debating for months how to facilitate travel, both inside and outside the bloc, and the EC has recommended all member states from July 1 to lift restrictions on travelers who are fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival. in the EU.
By July 1, the EU’s COVID-19 digital certificate is said to be operational across the bloc, allowing border officials to check travelers’ coronavirus status – if they’ve been vaccinated, have had a test recent negative or have evidence of recovery from coronavirus infection. Seven countries, including Greece and Croatia, dependent on tourism, have already started rolling out vaccine passports much earlier than expected.
“Europeans should enjoy a safe and relaxing summer,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday. “As vaccination progresses, we are proposing to gradually relax travel measures in a coordinated manner with our common tool: the EU COVID digital certificate.”
But some in the European travel industry doubt that all will go well next month, even when many restrictions need to be relaxed. Olivier Jankovec, managing director of Airports Council International Europe, a trade association, fears there is a lack of consistency in travel rules across the bloc and says the EC and national governments do not understand how reopening will be difficult for airports and airlines. Jankovec says the EU and member states underestimate what will happen when tourism picks up.
The dreaded airport âchaosâ
âThe level of uncertainty and complexity in planning the restart is simply mind-boggling at the moment,â Jankovec said in a statement. “With each passing day, the prospect that travelers will experience widespread chaos at airports this summer becomes more real. We urgently need governments to step up their planning on all the issues involved – and work more closely with them. airports and airlines. “
His trade association has warned that air passengers risk spending hours at airports in July and August due to multiple and diverse COVID-19 checks.
Some British lawmakers have expressed suspicion that the EU has not added Britain to the white list due to post-Brexit political grievances. Last month, Brussels relaxed its criteria for COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people aged 25 to 75 and Britain is meeting the EU target. But EU officials say they are concerned about an increase in infections in Britain from a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first discovered in India, hence the decision to exclude the UK
The Biden administration has yet to lift the ban on travelers wishing to travel to the United States from the 27 member states of the European Union and the United Kingdom, but officials have indicated that may change soon.
Meanwhile, Britain has also come under fire from southern European countries for not including them in its meager “green list” of safe countries for travel. The Portuguese Foreign Ministry said it could not “understand the logic” of Portugal’s switch from green to yellow midweek.
The move means all Britons traveling to Portugal will have to pass two tests on their return and self-isolate at home for 10 days, which will deter tourists. “Portugal continues to ease its lockdown, cautiously and gradually, with clear rules for the safety of those who reside here or visit us,” the Portuguese Foreign Ministry tweeted on Thursday.
British officials, like their EU counterparts, say they are guided in their decision by the scientific advice they receive. The United States has not lifted its restrictions on travel from Europe for non-U.S. Citizens or residents, but officials in Washington told VOA that is under review.