The European Union announced today that it will open its borders once again after the coronavirus forced a near total travel shutdown over the last four months. However, the Union is considering keeping American citizens off of the list of approved countries that can enter the region, citing the United States’ poor response to controlling the virus up to this point.
The New York Times first reported on Tuesday that the European Union has begun drafting guidelines for the re-opening of the European economy as the virus’ tolls quiet down. It has drafted two potential lists of approved and disapproved places, with decisions on travel based on which nations were able to slow the spread of the virus within their own respective borders.
The European Union’s decision to open its borders would be on a case by case basis according to who is coming from where. Certain countries will have greater access than others, a decision made specifically on how those countries have responded to the virus in recent months.
The decision to leave the United States off of the potential list of acceptable travel origins is a major strike to U.S./E.U. relations and sends a strong message of disapproval to President Donald Trump, who has been widely criticized for his response and leadership during the pandemic. Also on that list of potential nations barred from European travel for the foreseeable future are places like Russia and Brazil, two countries that have also been widely criticized for their response. Places like China and Vietnam, early hot spots for the virus that managed to gain control of the spread in a matter of weeks, are included in approved places on both potential lists obtained by the New York Times.
At the start of the pandemic, however, Trump was quick to close the borders to European travelers coming into the United States as cases saw a sharp rise in places like Italy and Spain. The decision, at the time, was hailed as one of pragmatism as it aimed to stop the spread of the virus at the start of what would be one of the most historical events in modern history.
Today, though, the decision to bar American travelers is one that is just as political as it is logical. As the pandemic has become a bipartisan disaster in the United States, other countries can’t help but notice that the issue at hand has been far from resolved amid forced economic re-openings and debates over the legitimacy of mail-in voting.
For President Trump, the novel coronavirus is just as much a political tool—one that can be used to mask the need for accessible voting methods, attempt to defraud the scientific community, or even devalue the legitimacy of a civil rights movement—as it is a crisis. And other countries are taking note.