Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (EC), has indicated that the EU will grant unrestricted access to vaccinated travelers from the U.S. The EC said it hopes the proposal would be implemented by June.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says this is a step in the right direction but adds that freedom to travel should not exclude those who are unable to be vaccinated. IATA also wants the presentation of negative COVID-19 test results to facilitate travel. Central to this is acceptance by EU governments of rapid antigen tests that the EC has approved for use and which fulfil the critical criteria of effective, convenient and affordable.
Europe has also been working on proposals for travel within the EU. On April 29, the European Parliament voted on the EU’s proposed Digital Green Certificate Regulation, setting trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and Commission into motion. Swift action and alignment among the institutions is now critical in order to make the certificates operational by June and ensure reciprocity with non-EU systems.
The Parliament vote brings forward important changes to the original proposal:
- A new name, “EU COVID-19 Certificate” has been agreed to make it clearer to EU citizens and also limit the certificates’ use to during the pandemic.
- Free and accessible testing: The requirement to conduct pre-departure tests (often PCR) should not create an economic distortion between travelers. With tests ranging from €10 to €150, it is clear that such high costs could become a deterrent to travel – in particular among families.
- Full equality among vaccinated and tested citizens: No additional measures such as quarantine or further testing should be imposed on travelers presenting a valid “EU COVID-19 Certificate”.
The proposed amendments send a strong political message from the Parliament on the urgency to restore free movement in the EU. According to a recent IATA survey, 72% of people want to travel to see family and friends as soon as possible. Swift negotiations are therefore called for with agreement by mid-May so that pilot testing and full implementation can take place in June.