European Union leaders have agreed to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the 27-nation bloc—a move that will end the more than year-long, pandemic-era travel ban.
The European Council “will now recommend that member states ease some of the current restrictions” for those who have been vaccinated, EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand told the Associated Press.
He didn’t give a precise date for when the borders will reopen, but European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have indicated that June, if not sooner, is the goal.
The majority of travelers from the United States and most non-European countries have been banned from entering much of Europe since March 17, 2020, when European Union leaders imposed strict travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Those restrictions were ultimately extended until July 1, 2020, when the European Union began welcoming back travelers from a short list of approved countries. The latest version of the list includes seven nations: Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
The United States was never on the list. Conversely, the United States still has a ban in place on travel from the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, with the exception of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
The European Union also agreed Wednesday to ease the criteria for nations to get approval for entry—when nations are approved, all travelers from the country can enter Europe, including tourists, not just those who are exempted (such as EU residents) as long as they submit to whatever entry requirements European countries have in place.
“The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted,” said Wigand.
Reuters reported that the EU is expected to unveil the new list this week or early next week. Based on data from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), the U.K. and a number of other countries would meet the new criteria, but the United States would not—although vaccinated Americans would still be allowed into Europe, Reuters reported.
The relaxation of restrictions on travel into Europe was proposed earlier this month by the European Commission, which said entry should be granted to all those fully vaccinated with EU-authorized shots, which are Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
Wigand said ambassadors also agreed on an “emergency brake” system designed to stop dangerous virus variants from entering the EU. If infections spike in a non-EU country, new travel limits will be enacted.
The developments come as Italy opened to U.S. leisure travelers on COVID-tested flights on May 16 and as France recently said it will open to Americans by June 9. Additionally, a handful of European countries have already started opening up to international travelers who are either vaccinated or present negative COVID-19 test results, including Greece and Iceland.
Associated Press contributed reporting.