Trump travel ban on Europe is politically motivated, analysts say

President Donald Trump arrives at a “Hope for Prisoners” graduation ceremony at the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, February 20, 2020.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Donald Trump’s decision to ban travel from many European countries is “politically motivated” and will not prevent further coronavirus cases, analysts told CNBC.

Trump announced Wednesday that people from 26 countries in Europe would be banned from entering the United States for a period of 30 days. These nations form the so-called Schengen Area, where there are no passport checks between internal borders. 

However, countries in Europe which are not part of the Schengen area are excluded from the ban. These include the U.K., Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania.

“The U.S. travel ban against the EU Schengen is a politically motivated, and largely ineffective measure,” Alberto Alemanno, a professor of EU law at H.E.C. Paris Business School, told CNBC Friday.

“While it is true that a large proportion of Covid19 cases originate in the Schengen area, the ban is inherently inconsistent. It exempts U.S. citizens, legal residents, as well as countries such as the U.K. that has almost 500 confirmed cases,” he said, adding that most European countries covered by the ban had fewer cases.

 The White House declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Several EU officials have criticized Trump’s move for not coordinating his response with them. “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” two of the most senior EU officials, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, said Thursday in a statement.

The former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, called Trump’s ban “irresponsible.”

“Any attempt to contain the corona outbreak is welcome, but the decision of President Trump to exclude the U.K. from a European travel ban is nothing short of irresponsible. Viruses do not recognise borders. Decisions should be based on facts, not politics,” Stubb, now a board member for an EU-wide think tank, said Thursday on Twitter.

The travel ban comes at a time when the number of cases is rising in both the Europe and the United States. As of Thursday night, the U.S. had 1,663 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Meanwhile, countries under the travel ban, such as Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium, have many fewer cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Rebecca Christie, visiting fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, said the travel ban was an “effort by Trump to try to convince the American people he has a plan.”

The restrictions add further pressure on U.S.-EU relations. Both sides have been at odds over global trade, taxation and climate change since Trump came to power. 

The two countries agreed in January to improve their trade links, by negotiating a deal before the end of the year. Christie told CNBC that it was hard to imagine anything being done on trade in an election year, irrespective of the virus outbreak.

U.S. voters will be deciding on who will be their president for the next four years in November.

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