Commission wants to ease entry restrictions for travel from non-EU countries

Commission wants to ease entry restrictions for travel from non-EU countries
Credit: Pikrepo

On Monday, the European Commission announced a proposal for Member States to ease their current restriction on non-essential travel from non-EU countries.

The Commission proposes that travellers from outside the EU who have been fully vaccinated, with a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), or through the WHO emergency procedure will be able to re-enter Europe.

A senior Commission official explained at a press briefing today that this will allow helping people from third countries seeing their friends and families living in the EU again after a long absence. In addition, it will help supporting the EU economy, specifically in the hard-hit tourism sector.

According to the proposal, Member States should allow travel into the EU of those people who have received, at least 14 days before arrival, the last recommended dose of a vaccine having received marketing authorisation in the EU.

Member States could also extend this to those vaccinated with a vaccine having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. However, they will not have the discretion to accept other vaccines.

In addition, if Member States decide to waive the requirements to present a negative PCR test and/or to undergo quarantine for vaccinated persons on their territory, they should also waive such requirements for vaccinated travellers from outside the EU.

Travellers will have to present a vaccination certificate.

The European Digital Green Certificate is expected to be adopted by end June. Third country vaccination certificates will be covered by a Commission implementing act adopted under the future Regulation on Digital Green Certificates.

Until the Digital Green Certificate is operational, Member States should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law.

Additionally, travellers from non-EU countries with a "good" epidemiological situation would also be welcome again. The Commission official added that the epidemiological situation prevails over the existence of a vaccination certificate. Non-essential travel regardless of individual vaccination status is currently only permitted from 7 countries with a good epidemiological situation. This list is decided by the Council on the basis of epidemiological criteria contained in the current recommendation. The Commission is proposing to amend the criteria to take into account the mounting evidence of the positive impact of vaccination campaigns. The adapted threshold should allow the Council to expand the list of countries from which non-essential travel is permitted regardless of vaccination status, subject to health-related measures such as testing and/or quarantine. However, a kind of "emergency brake" mechanism would also be built-in, meaning that if a variant of the coronavirus that gives cause for concern would emerge in non-EU countries, Member States could decide to suspend travel to and from that country. For essential travel, nothing changes. People from non-EU countries who travel for essential reasons will still be able to travel to Europe, regardless of whether they have been fully vaccinated. For now, this is still a proposal that has to be discussed by the Member States. The European Commission hopes that they will adopt the proposal by the end of the month.

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