Top European Union officials were apparently blindsided by President Donald Trump’s ban on incoming travel from Europe in a dubious attempt to stymie the COVID-19 outbreak, learning about it only through the President’s televised address on Wednesday night.
President of the European Commission Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel issued a terse joint statement on Thursday saying that the Trump administration had not informed them of the restrictions, which prohibit foreign nationals traveling from 26 European countries (not including the U.K.) to the U.S. for the next 30 days.
“The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” the officials said. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
“The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus,” they added, a clear swipe at Trump’s accusation that Europe had failed to take tough steps to combat the disease.
“We do not comment on private diplomatic discussions,” a State Department spokesperson said on background when TPM reached out for comment.
As Trump was announcing the ban on Wednesday, he claimed that the cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. “were seeded by travelers from Europe,” though he did not offer evidence for the claim.
“The European union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots,” Trump said.
He also initially declared that trade and cargo would also be halted by the ban, though he later tweeted that the restrictions would not affect trade after all.
This story has been updated to include the State Department’s response.