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

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read