EU sets antivirus pass plan to allow free travel in summer

The European Union’s executive body presented a proposal that would allow EU residents to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc by the summer as long as they have been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID -19 or cured of the disease.

BRUSSELS – The executive body of the European Union on Wednesday proposed issuing certificates that would allow EU residents to travel freely across the bloc of 27 nations by the summer, provided they have been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID-19 or recovered from the disease.

“We all want the tourist season to begin. We cannot afford to lose another season, “European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova told Czech Public Radio.” Tourism, as well as culture and other sectors that depend on tourism, are suffering terribly. . “

The subject of vaccination certificates has been discussed for weeks in the EU, where it has proven to be a divisive factor. The travel industry and countries in southern Europe whose economies depend on tourism like Greece and Spain have pushed for the rapid introduction of a program that would help eliminate quarantines and testing requirements for the tourists.

But several other EU members, including France, have argued that it would be premature and discriminatory to introduce such passes because a large majority of EU citizens have yet to have access to vaccines. .

To ensure the participation of all member countries, the committee proposed to issue free “digital green certificates” to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but also to those who have. have tested negative for the virus or can prove that they have recovered. From this.

“Being vaccinated will not be a prerequisite for travel,” said the European Commission. “All EU citizens have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU, and this applies regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. The digital green certificate will facilitate the exercise of this right, also through test and recovery certificates. “

According to data compiled by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, less than 5% of European citizens have been fully immunized due to delays in vaccine delivery and production. The European Commission says it is convinced that it will be able to achieve its goal of vaccinating 70% of the EU’s adult population by the end of the summer.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the travel certificates “will help boost tourism and the economies that heavily depend on it.” The European aviation industry has urged EU governments to ensure passes are operational in time for the peak of the summer season.

The commission proposed that all vaccines buffered by the European Medicines Agency be automatically recognized, but also offered governments the option of including other vaccines like Russian Sputnik or Chinese Sinovac, which have not received for EU marketing authorization.

The European Commission has guaranteed that “a very high level of data protection will be ensured” and said certificates will be issued in digital format for viewing on smartphones or paper.

EU officials also hope the vaccination certificates will convince member states that have introduced travel restrictions aimed at slowing the rate of new infections to lift their measures. The EU’s executive arm has already warned six countries that their travel restriction measures, which in Belgium go as far as banning non-essential travel, could undermine the EU’s fundamental principle of free travel and harm the single market.

The commission said certificates should be suspended once the World Health Organization declares the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If accepted by EU leaders, the proposal will need to be approved by EU lawmakers to enter into force.

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Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this story.

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