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US Citizens Likely to Be Left out as Europe Reopens Borders

BRUSSELS (AP) — Americans are unlikely to be allowed into Europe when the continent reopens its borders next week, due to how the coronavirus pandemic is flaring in the U.S. and President Donald Trump's ban on Europeans entering the United States.

European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1, and their representatives in Brussels are now debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting border restrictions to the outside world that were imposed in March.

In recommendations to EU nations on June 11, the European Commission said "travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse" than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

That is likely to rule out the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. After trending down for well over a month, new U.S. cases have risen for more than a week.

The U.S. on Tuesday reported 34,700 new cases of the virus, bringing its total to more than 2.3 million and over 121,000 dead — the most anywhere in the world. The virus outbreaks in Brazil, India and Russia are remarkably high too, and it's also unlikely that the EU will let their citizens in. 

In contrast, aside from a notable new outbreak tied to a slaughterhouse in western Germany, the virus's spread has slowed notably across the EU and particularly in the 26 nations that make up Europe's visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen area, which more than 15 million Americans visit each year.

For the EU's executive arm, the key criteria for opening up to the outside world should include the number of new infections per 100,000 population — the exact ceiling is up for debate — and the country's overall response to the pandemic, in terms of testing, surveillance, treatment, contact tracing and reporting cases.

But more than this, the country should lift its own travel restrictions for Europeans from all EU and Schengen nations, the commission said, adding "it cannot be applied selectively." 

Brussels fears that opening up to countries outside in ad hoc way could lead to the reintroduction of border controls between nations inside the Schengen area, threatening once again Europe's cherished principle of free movement, which allows people and goods to cross borders without checks.

This principle of reciprocity on its own should rule out U.S. citizens, at least initially. The aim is to revise the list of acceptable countries every two weeks based on developments. 

In a decree on March 11, Trump suspended the entry of all people in the Schengen area. More than 10 million Europeans visit the United States each year.

"The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from the Schengen Area threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security," Trump's proclamation said.

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