BRUSSELS – American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to visit the European Union over the summer, the bloc’s executive body chief said on Sunday in an interview with the New York Times, over ‘one year after the closure. non-essential travel from most countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The rapid pace of vaccination in the United States and the advanced discussions between local authorities and the European Union on how to make vaccination certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors will enable the European Commission, the executive branch Union, to recommend a policy change that could allow the re-establishment of transatlantic pleasure travel.
“Americans, as far as I know, use vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in an interview with The Times in Brussels on Sunday. âThis will allow free movement and travel to the European Union.
“Because one thing is clear: the 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines approved by the EMA,” she added. The agency, the blockade’s drug regulator, has approved all three vaccines used in the United States, namely Moderna, Pfizer / BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.
Ms von der Leyen did not offer a timeline specifying exactly when the sightseeing trip might open or details of how it would unfold. But his comments are a high-level statement that current travel restrictions should change based on vaccination certificates.
She noted that the United States was “on the right track” and making “tremendous progress” with its campaign to achieve so-called herd immunity, or immunization of 70 percent of adults, by mid-year. -June.
She added that the resumption of travel would depend “on the epidemiological situation, but the situation is improving in the United States, because it is also improving, hopefully, in the European Union.”
Diplomats from tourist destination countries in Europe, mostly led by Greece, have argued for weeks that the bloc’s criteria for determining whether a country is a ‘safe’ origin based solely on low cases of Covid-19 are becoming quickly unnecessary given the progress of vaccination campaigns. in the United States, Great Britain and some other countries.
Technical discussions have been going on for several weeks between officials in the European Union and the United States on how to make each location’s vaccination certificates practically and technologically widely readable so that citizens can use them for unrestricted travel.
These discussions are continuing, officials in Brussels said, and it is possible that a low-tech solution will be used in the near future to allow people to travel freely on the basis of vaccination. For example, a traveler to Europe could obtain an equivalent European vaccine certificate upon arrival after presenting a good faith certificate issued by their own government.
The hope, officials said, is that this step would soon be unnecessary as vaccination certificates issued by foreign governments would be acceptable and readable in the European Union, and vice versa.
The European Union itself has started the process of providing its own citizens with “digital green certificates”, which will indicate whether the traveler has been vaccinated against Covid-19; has recovered from illness in recent months; or has tested negative for the virus within the last few days. Europeans will be able to use them to travel without further restrictions, at least in principle, within the bloc of 27 nations.
Based on Ms von der Leyen’s comments, the European Commission will recommend the change in travel policy, although individual member states may reserve the right to maintain stricter limits. They might not allow citizens from outside the bloc to visit or impose restrictions such as quarantines, even on visitors who have vaccination certificates.
But countries like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Croatia, which welcome millions of American tourists every summer and depend heavily on it for their income and employment, are ready to seize the opportunity to reopen the US tourism market with the blessing of the EU.
So far, non-essential travel to the European Union has been officially banned with the exception of visitors to a short list countries with very low numbers of cases of the virus, including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
Some EU countries have made small exceptions to allow visitors from outside the bloc. Greece, for example, said last week it would open its borders to travelers from the United States from Monday, provided they show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.
Visitors from the handful of countries officially allowed to visit the European Union under existing rules would normally still be expected to comply with various sets of requirements implemented on a country-by-country basis, including a negative coronavirus test and compliance with the rules. quarantine. .
The return of vaccinated visitors to Europe’s beaches and tourist sites would provide a desperately needed financial boost to countries on its southern shore, in particular. And for millions of potential tourists around the world, as well as airlines and the travel industry in general, it would herald a cautious and limited return to something akin to normalcy.
For Americans in particular, it would also point to a dramatic shift in the fortunes of Covid-19: going from junk in Europe a year ago, when the pandemic was raging in the United States, to leading the way. global travelers free to resume. leisure travel.
But the return of leisure travel to Europe on a larger scale will also highlight the widening inequalities between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, both within countries and, in particular, at the global level. With India in the throes of the world’s worst increase in coronavirus infections and with last week’s highest global case total since the start of the pandemic, that contrast could become even more shocking.