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EU Prepares to Open Up to International Travelers

The complicated process must get “buy-in” from member states

May 4, 2021

The European Commission has created proposals to ease restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU. The proposals would allow in fully vaccinated travelers and those from countries with a “good epidemiological situation”.

The Commission proposed on Monday “to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorized vaccine.” It added that “member states could also extend this to those vaccinated with a vaccine having completed the WHO emergency use listing process.”

As it stands, non-essential travel to the EU (regardless of vaccination status) is only permitted from seven countries. This list is subject to a set of criteria, and travelers from such countries are still subject to testing and/or quarantine requirements.

Under the new plans, the Commission recommends amending the criteria, raising the threshold related to the number of Covid-19 cases. This would expand the list of countries from which all travel is permitted. According to the proposals, the Council would review the list every two weeks.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission, tweeted on Monday:

The Commission states that travelers will be able to prove their vaccination status once the EU’s Digital Green Certificate becomes operational.

Airports and airlines have called for the certificate to begin being issued “by the end of June at the very latest”.

Until that time, countries can accept certificates from non-EU countries “based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data”.

To prevent a spike in cases, the Commission is also proposing the introduction of a new “emergency brake” mechanism, allowing countries to temporarily limit all travel from countries with a deteriorating health situation and “in particular if a variant of concern or interest is detected.” There are exceptions for certain jobs, and such travelers will be subject to testing and quarantine arrangements even if they have been vaccinated. This would be reviewed every two weeks.

The proposals will cover all EU member states (apart from Ireland) as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The Council will discuss the measures this week, with the proposals subject to approval by the EU’s 27 member states.

Meanwhile, France has begun trying out a digital coronavirus travel certificate on flights to Corsica, while the UK government has confirmed that the NHS app will be used by England as a vaccine passport for travel overseas.