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President Trump announced on 11th March, that he was taking action to stem the spread of the corona-virus by suspending most travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days, beginning 13th March 2020. The restrictions do not apply to Britain, he added. Mr. Trump imposed a 30-day ban on foreigners who have been in the 26 countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area in a previous couple of weeks. The limits took effect from midnight on 13th March and exempt American citizens and permanent legal residents and their families, who would be funneled to certain airports for enhanced screening.
United States Vice President Mike Pence announced that the travel ban would be extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland starting at 04:00 GMT on Tuesday, 17th March 2020. He added that the Americans in the UK or Ireland and legal residents can come home and they would be funneled through specific airports.
The Schengen Area includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Significance of this development:
The Department of Homeland Security said the order suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days before their scheduled arrival in the US. The US President said that Britain had been excluded from the travel restrictions owing to its success in fighting the corona-virus.
He blamed other European countries for failing to take sufficient precautions and travel restrictions from China and other hubs of the virus resulting in a large number of clusters in the US seeded by travelers from Europe. The ban restricts every traveler except the U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, the immediate family of U.S. citizens, people invited to the U.S. for specific purposes, air and sea crew members, foreign diplomats, and those who do not pose a significant risk and should be let in for reasons of public interest.
Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, said that the country is in the community spread stage of the pandemic. As the corona-virus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread across the globe and countries are reporting new confirmed cases, the United States is closely monitoring and updating travel advisories. The State Department says that when it comes to issuing a travel alert for Americans traveling abroad, it takes into account health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, as well as the issuance of a travel notice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The criteria imposed for putting in place such a ban is strictly the identification of countries wherein the spread of the virus has not been effectively controlled. The countries which have failed to impose proper precautions and travel restrictions within time have turned into hotspots for the infection and therefore, by restricting travels from such countries, the US wants to mitigate the risk.
Its probable impact on international relations:
The travel ban stops any travel between countries in the Schengen Area and the US. The restriction will affect 3,500 flights per week and up to 800,000 passengers, according to aviation analysts at Bernstein. The countries most affected will be Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
The ban would heap more pressure on an industry struggling because of the spread of corona-virus, with tens of thousands of canceled flights and warnings over the disease’s effect on earnings. There would be heavy political costs- and the risk of retaliatory action- was, say, a non-Schengen country to impose a blanket ban on arrivals from the Schengen area. There would also be a practical problem in some cases of policing land borders.
It cannot be predicted what would be the outcome of such political and economic damages. It can only be hoped that the strict actions are taken in this time of a pandemic claiming numerous lives would not be carried across this river of travels to disturb international relations in the future. The European Union has itself imposed restrictions on travels to and from its countries constituting the Schengen Area, thus it is assumed that the diplomatic relations between the US and the EU would continue as they are.
Relations between the United States and the European Union are the bilateral relations between the US and the EU. The USA and EU have been interacting for more than sixty years. USA-EU official relations began in 1953 when USA ambassadors visited the European Coal and Steel Community. The two parties share a good relationship which is strengthened by cooperation on trade, military defense, and shared values.
However, in January 2017, US President Donald Trump criticized the European Union as “basically a vehicle for Germany” claiming that it was “very catastrophic mistake” on Angela Merke;’s part to admit a million refugees- whom he refers to as “illegal”.
The relation soured more when Jean-Claude Juncker jokingly said it would support the independence of the US State of Ohio and the city of Austin, Texas after Donald Trump backed the Brexit and encouraging other European Countries to follow its example. In May 2017, Angela Merkel said that Europeans cannot rely on the United States’ help anymore after Trump threatened to stop all car trade with Germany.
In July 2018, Trump stated that the European Union is one of the United States’ greatest foes globally, citing “what they do to us on trade”. In December 2019, further, the US urged the European countries to blacklist Hezbollah. Its ambassador to Germany asked these countries to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization after a US civil contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq’s Kirkuk province.
Points for consideration by INDIA:
India has also fallen victim to the virus and date there are 164 confirmed cases of the infection and two confirmed deaths thereby. The number is gradually increasing; however, the pace in India is quite slow as compared to various other countries. India has been able to build good relations with the US only in the past few years and to maintain same India needs to be more cautious than all others.
So far, India has presented an example of how a nation works to protect its citizens by rescuing Indians from foreign nations affected by the virus and also reducing the spread in the territory by a huge percentage. India, as a developing nation, cannot afford such travel bans as it would impact the economy adversely. Thus, India needs to consider the situation, the possible consequences of its failure to control the virus in its territory, and the further consequences thereof.
The travel ban imposed by the US is supposed to be effective in mitigating the risk of the spread of the COVID-19 in American countries. However, such a ban would pose problems for various airlines as well as the political authorities. The countries with a lower economic stand would suffer more than others and the balancing would be a herculean task thereafter. Also, the resultant economic loss and political troubles could end up in strained relations between these nations and pose problems in co-operation and diplomacy in the future.
It can be easily interpreted that upon the declaration of the COVID-19 as a pandemic, the imposition of travel bans is a part of the plans fleshed out to control the spread of the pandemics and are indeed necessary. However, like all coins have two sides, these travel restrictions will result in economic and political sufferance and may result in strained relations between the states who have imposed travel bans and upon whom they’ve been imposed.
Author: Himanshu Yadav from Faculty of Law, University of Allahabad, Prayagraj.
Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala