FILE - In this July 29, 2020 file photo, passengers wearing full protective gear against the spread of coronavirus, push their luggage in the departure hall of Zaventem international airport in Brussels. As curfew-weary, mask-wearing European citizens hope for relief, and perhaps the prospect of a real summer vacation this year, at an upcoming EU summit on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 leaders will also focus on when to ease restrictions, and the possibility of a future vaccination certificate so people can travel more conveniently. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

FILE - In this July 29, 2020 file photo, passengers wearing full protective gear against the spread of coronavirus, push their luggage in the departure hall of Zaventem international airport in Brussels. As curfew-weary, mask-wearing European citizens hope for relief, and perhaps the prospect of a real summer vacation this year, at an upcoming EU summit on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 leaders will also focus on when to ease restrictions, and the possibility of a future vaccination certificate so people can travel more conveniently. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

European Union sets out virus pass plan to allow free travel by summer

Several EU members argued that it would be premature and discriminatory to introduce such passes

The European Union’s executive body proposed Wednesday issuing certificates 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 recovered from the disease.

With summer looming and tourism-reliant countries anxiously waiting for the return of visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission foresees the creation of certificates aimed at facilitating travel between EU member nations. The plan is set to be discussed during a summit of EU leaders next week,

“We all want the tourist season to start. We can’t afford to lose another season,” European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova told Czech public radio. “Tourism, and also culture and other sectors that are dependent on tourism, terribly suffer. We’re talking about tens of millions of jobs.”

The topic of vaccine certificates has been under discussion for weeks in the EU, where it proved to be divisive. The travel industry and southern European countries with tourism-dependent economies like Greece and Spain have pushed for the quick introduction of a program that would help eliminate quarantines and testing requirements for tourists.

But several other EU members, including France, argued that it would be premature and discriminatory to introduce such passes since a large majority of EU citizens haven’t had access to vaccines so far.

To secure the participation of all member countries, the commission proposed delivering free “Digital Green Certificates” to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but also to those who have tested negative for the virus or can prove they recovered from it.

“Being vaccinated will not be a precondition to travel,” the European Commission said. “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 make it easier to exercise that right, also through testing and recovery certificates.”

According to data compiled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, less than 5% of European citizens have been fully vaccinated amid delays in the delivery and production of vaccines. The European Commission says it remains confident that it can achieve its goal of having 70% of the EU’s adult population vaccinated by the end of the summer.

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

The commission proposed that all vaccines rubberstamped by the European Medicines Agency should be automatically recognized, but also offered governments the possibility to include other vaccines like Russia’s Sputnik or China’s Sinovac, which haven’t received EU market authorization.

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

EU officials also hope that vaccine certificates will convince the member states which have introduced travel restrictions aimed at slowing down the pace of new infections to lift their measures. The EU’s executive arm has previously warned six countries that their travel-limiting measures, which in Belgium go as far as a ban on nonessential trips, could undermine the core EU principle of free travel and damage the single market.

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

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

READ MORE: Horgan supports vaccine passports for international travel but lukewarm for B.C.

___

Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this story.

___

Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirusEuropean Uniontravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff and residents from RMV show their appreciation for the volunteers who enrich their lives. From left to right: Shelley Moulton, Darlene Hutchinson, Betty Schanni, Mark Hudock, Victor Myette, Elinor Siska, Melissa Roger, Anita Braconnier. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
‘We can’t wait for you to come back’: Rocky Mountain Village residents show appreciation for volunteers

Volunteers can’t make in-person visits, but that hasn’t stopped them staying in touch

Members of the community garden hosted their first seed swap and fundraiser at the Greenwood Mall in Sparwood on Monday. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood Community Garden hosts first seed swap

Work on the garden at Engelmann Spruce Drive will begin soon

Crews and volunteers responded to a four-hectare wildfire on the lower half of the Aqam community lands near Cranbrook on Friday afternoon. Trevor Crawley photo.
Wildfire season gets early start in the East Kootenay

Fire crews, volunteers respond to two local wildfires, while prescribed burns turn weekend skies smoky

A conceptual image of a multi-family housing development envisioned by Abugov Kaspar Architects to go on a lot in Castle Mountain in Fernie. (Image courtesy of City of Fernie)
City defers zoning decision

A zoning change would permit a development with 15 percent rental tenure residences in Castle Mountain

Rob and Jennifer King run Sasquatch Cyclery out of their garage. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
‘Hop on it now’: Parts crunch hits cycling

New bikes are hard to get and used bikes are selling at a premium this year

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read