BRUSSELS – The European Union took a crucial step towards reopening its borders to vaccinated travelers on Monday after the bloc’s executive released a plan to allow travel to resume after more than a year of strict coronavirus restrictions .
The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has proposed that the 27 member countries reopen their borders to all travelers who have been fully vaccinated with vaccines approved by the block drug regulator or the World Organization for health. The commission also described other looser conditions linked to the pandemic that should allow people to travel.
According to the proposal, more regular trips to the bloc would gradually restart in time for the summer tourist season, which is an economic driver for several Member States. The plans are an important moment in Europe’s efforts to return to some semblance of normalcy after more than a year of tight restrictions.
Travel from outside the bloc was halted almost entirely last spring and was only temporarily reinstated for a handful of exceptions last summer. The measures have separated families, hampered the tourism and aviation sectors, and virtually halted business travel.
The policy change was first presented by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an interview with the New York Times last month, in which she said vaccinated Americans should be able to surrender in Europe this summer. The detailed proposal presented on Monday also confirmed earlier statements by Ms von der Leyen on the important role that mutual recognition of vaccination certificates will play in resuming international travel.
To be adopted, the proposal published on Monday will require the support of a reinforced majority of member states, which it is expected to receive late this month or early June. Yet individual member countries retain much of the sovereignty over health policy, so each state is likely to use this leeway to further tailor travel measures.
For example, some countries that depend heavily on visitors for their income and employment, such as Greece and Spain, have already decided to reopen their borders even before the European Union adopts a new country-wide policy. block. Others, especially in the north of the continent, could maintain stricter regulations because they would not gain as much from relaxing travel rules for the summer.
Given these likely differences, part of the committee’s proposal is aimed at preventing a completely uncoordinated approach by travelers from outside the bloc.
Yet even if the proposal is adopted by EU countries, the changes would not necessarily mean a simple or predictable set of rules for visitors, and spontaneous travel to Europe could still be a long way off.
For unvaccinated travelers, conditions in their home country, a negative PCR test, and quarantine will likely continue to play a role in determining whether or not to visit. But the commission proposed that those who wish to enter at least two weeks after receiving their second vaccine vaccine be allowed, without testing or quarantine.
According to plans, the bloc would also be able to quickly revert to a near-total travel ban if a dangerous variant of the coronavirus were to emerge – using an ’emergency brake’ mechanism.
A key piece of the puzzle for the European Union would be the mutual recognition of officially issued vaccination certificates. As the bloc makes progress in preparing for a ‘digital digital pass’ for vaccinated citizens (and has engaged companies, including logistics giant SAP, to digitize vaccine cards), states -United and other countries are even further behind and do not yet offer uniforms, verifiable vaccination certificates. The European Union and the United States have been involved in technical discussions on how to ensure that U.S. certificates are verifiable and acceptable in the bloc, officials said.
Responding to some major questions that aspiring visitors have raised in recent weeks, the commission said children would not need to be vaccinated to get to the block, but may be required to take a test negative.
British visitors to the European Union, a large pool of tourists, could be counted among those able to travel more freely given the rapid advance of vaccination in this country. But the European Union is not yet in contact with UK officials on the issue of certification of mutually recognizable vaccines, officials said.