Greece Hopes US On EU List of Countries Allowed to Send Tourists

Αssociated Press

A coast guard officer wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, walks on the dock as a ferry, right, leaves and another one approaches the Aegean Sea island of Milos, Greece, on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS -- The European Union reportedly is set to release a list of 15 countries outside the bloc whose residents will be allowed to visit, with Greece eagerly hoping it will include Americans now barred because of the United States’ soaring COVID-19 rate.

Spain's Foreign Minister  Arancha González Laya said the list was due to come out June 29 or June 30, reported Spain's Cadena SER radio but that she wasn’t aware of pressure from the United States, at odds with other reports that said the EU is being squeezed to back off.

She said countries are being vetted according to their coronavirus statistics  - whether similar or not to that in the EU — trends of contagion and how reliable data is, the US suspect because President Donald Trump is claiming a good record although the number of cases there - 2.4 million and rising - is the world’s highest.

"This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries, this is an exercise of self-responsibility," González Laya said.

Among the countries being discussed is Morocco, whose government doesn't plan to open borders until July 10. González Laya said that the EU is considering to accept travelers from China if Beijing reciprocates accepting travelers from the EU starting on July 1.

The minister also confirmed that Spain will fully reopen borders with Portugal, despite a spike in infections in the neighboring country and with Spain among the hardest-hit countries in the EU.

Greek-Americans are also hoping that US airlines will be able to take them to the homeland with Greece opening to more tourists on July 1 and allowing regional airports to operate after the international airports outside Athens and Thessaloniki resumed on June 15.

Greece has strict health protocols in place but wants to get tourism and the economy going after to counteract damage from a near three-month lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, that was gradually eased weekly starting May 4 after starting on March 23.

Delta Air Lines was hoping to restart flights next month from New York to Athens and Lisbon, two popular summer destinations, but it will probably have to wait a little longer, The New York Times reported in a feature on the airline-tourism dilemma.

The paper said the EU was still planning to prohibit most Americans even as it welcomes travelers from more than a dozen other countries dealing a blow to Delta and other airlines hoping to revive their business as travel across the Atlantic Ocean typically peaks.

International flights make up a minority of flights for U.S. airlines but are typically much more profitable than domestic routes, with those to Europe the most important and with Delta having nonstop flights from Athens to JFK Airport in New York and Emirates flying to Newark, New Jersey.

U.S. and European airlines had reduced the number of available seats on flights connecting the two markets by about 75 percent next month compared with last July, according to the aviation data provider OAG. A travel ban on Americans, which European Union officials confirmed, will probably lead to even deeper cuts, the paper said.

“It’s a huge deal,” said John Grant, a senior analyst at OAG. “It is by far the jewel in the crown for many major airline networks, in terms of both revenue and profitability.”

Travel between the United States and the European Union has been restricted since March, when governments barred most visitors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with exceptions for repatriations and “essential” travel by medical professionals.