Only injections approved by the EMA or WHO will be recognized and an ’emergency brake’ is provided to prevent the spread of dangerous variants.
The European Union is preparing to open its borders to non-EU tourists fully vaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of the summer season. It is an initiative designed to support the recovery of the European economy, especially in the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, particularly in southern countries such as Spain, Italy or Greece.
The Commission of Ursula von der Leyen has proposed this Monday to relax the current restrictions on non-essential travel from countries outside the EU. A measure that Brussels justifies by the progress of vaccination campaigns, as well as the evolution of the epidemiological situation around the world.
The main novelty that the Community Executive raises is to allow entry to all non-EU tourists with the complete vaccination schedule at least 14 days before your arrival. This carte blanche for the moment would only apply to injections authorized by the EMA: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. The list could however be extended to other vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This means that the initiative will mainly favor tourists from United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Israel or Japan, who are using the same injections as the EU. However, travelers from Russia, China, or a neighboring country like Serbia will be left out because their vaccines have not been recognized so far by the EMA.
Brussels hopes that soon initiatives such as the European Covid passport become widespread around the world, that serve as proof of vaccination. In fact, the Commission is negotiating a mutual recognition agreement with the United States. Pending the generalization of this type of agreement between the EU and other international partners, it will be the Member States that will have the last word in whether or not to recognize certificates from non-EU countries, based on their national legislation.
“Now is the time to reactivate tourism and rekindle cross-border friendships, in a safe way. We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors and those from countries with good sanitary conditions, “Von der Leyen wrote on his Twitter account.” But if variants arise, we have to act quickly: we propose an emergency brake mechanism of the EU “, has explained.
Expand the list
The Brussels plan effectively includes a security brake, which will allow Member States to act quickly and in a coordinated manner to again restrict to a minimum all travel from countries affected by new, more dangerous or highly contagious variants.
To enter into force, the relaxation of travel restrictions must now be approved by the EU governments. An agreement that will not be easy, especially in the case of Hungary, the only member state that is currently using both the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese Sinopharm. Despite everything, Brussels sees some kind of compromise possible at the end of this month, so that vaccinated non-EU tourists can enter without problems in summer.
Following the outbreak of the pandemic last year, the EU completely closed its external borders. Since then, it has only lifted restrictions on those countries with low infection rates. A very reduced list that currently only includes Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and also China, but with reservation of reciprocity.
Brussels wants now relax the criteria for the compilation of this list in order to take into account the growing evidence of the positive impact of vaccination campaigns. The proposal is to raise from 25 to 100 the threshold of cumulative initiation in 14 days used to consider a non-EU country as safe. This limit is still well below the current EU average of 420.
With this new threshold, The Community Executive intends to rapidly expand the list of countries whose tourists are welcomeregardless of whether or not they are vaccinated. Of course, without eliminating other requirements such as the requirement of a negative PCR test or a quarantine. Brussels wants this list to be reviewed every fortnight in order to be able to expand it quickly.