The European Union will roll out the welcome mat for Thai tourists beginning July 1, but Bangkok isn’t likely to return the favor any time soon.
After weeks of fraught negotiations, ambassadors from the 27 EU members released their list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed quarantine-free access to the European bloc. Thailand made the list. The United States and Russia did not.
Europe’s draft in/out list – scheduled for a full European Commission vote on Saturday – reflects the EU’s assessment of how well other countries have managed their coronavirus outbreaks. Europe was the hardest-hit region in the pandemic this spring, but most countries now have the virus under control and are willing to consider opening their borders to other countries that have done the same.
As the EU agreement is not legally binding, each member country could impose additional requirements on Thailand.
Besides Thailand, the other countries deemed worthy are Australia, Algeria, Canada, Japan, Georgia, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Tunisia, Uruguay, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, and the Vatican.
The 15th country is China. But its tourists would not be admitted into the EU unless China drops its ban on European travelers. That implies that the EU’s offer to foreign governments is contingent upon reciprocity. Confirmation of that should come next week.
If the offer to Thailand indeed requires the kingdom to open its borders to Europeans, Bangkok likely will pass.
If the offer to Thailand indeed requires the kingdom to open its borders to Europeans, Bangkok likely will pass. The government appears in no hurry to allow general tourists back in, although exchanges of business travelers, investors, skilled laborers and teachers may be possible beginning July 1.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday met with Swedish Ambassador Staffan Herrstrom about tourism issues and Thailand reportedly has also been talking with Switzerland about a bilateral “travel bubble” agreement, although that country is not an EU member.
Most of Thailand’s “travel bubble” focus has been on Asia and appears closest to making reciprocal tourism agreements with China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Like the EU, Thailand has no interest in seeing Americans return to the Land of Smiles, perhaps for the rest of the year. Unlike Asia and Europe, the U.S. not only failed to flatten its infection curve, but has backslid and is not seeing more daily infections than at any time during the pandemic.
Also blocked from the EU will be Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and – likely for political reasons – Taiwan, which has the world’s best record when it comes to Covid-19.