OPINION

Reciprocity in travel between the EU and the US

reciprocity-in-travel-between-the-eu-and-the-us

Being able to travel to the United States without restrictions is important to many Greeks, whether they have business there or are traveling for pleasure. But while the European Union has eased the rules for Americans visiting its member-states, the same is not the case for Europeans traveling to the US, prompting a request from Brussels for obstacles to be lifted.

The Biden administration has said – and has demonstrated that it is serious about it – that it wants to rebuild the traditional strong ties and close cooperation in a broad spectrum of activities between the US and Europe.

A move to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions, and quarantine rules especially, appears essential to this end. The EU is not asking for anything more than reciprocity.

Tourism is an essential part of many countries’ efforts to prop up their economies as we enter the summer season. Many different sectors and activities will benefit, from air carriers, hotels and cruise operators to restaurants, bars, cafes and myriad other leisure options, not to mention the products tourists buy.

It doesn’t make sense, therefore, for the two most economically and socially advanced entities in the Western world to maintain obstacles to their interaction. Instead, they should be coordinating their actions with the goal of maximizing their mutual benefits.

Almost three weeks ago, the EU-27 decided to welcome travelers from third countries who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, having received their last shot at least 14 days before their arrival. Brussels also proposed that people who show proof of full vaccination with an approved vaccine should not be subjected to a new test or to quarantine, though the decision ultimately rests with each individual member-state.

France, for example, which opens its doors tomorrow, will continue demanding that travelers from the US display a negative PCR or antigen test regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not.

The coordinated liberalization of travel on the same terms and conditions between the United States and the European Union is something that needs to happen as soon as possible – it will bring enormous benefits to both sides of the Atlantic and, in that context, to Greece as well.