European Union lawmakers on Wednesday approved a new travel certificate that will allow people to travel between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo additional tests for coronavirus, paving the way for the pass to start in time for the ‘summer.
The long-awaited certificate is intended to save the travel industry and major European tourist resorts from another disastrous holiday season. Major travel destinations such as Greece have pushed to quickly introduce the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms.
Several EU countries have already started using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland.
Across Europe, countries are lifting restrictions as summer approaches. In France, major sporting and cultural events are allowed with a maximum number of 5,000 people. They will need to show a vaccination certificate or negative test within the last 48 hours. Terraces of restaurants and cafes, theaters, cinemas and museums reopened on May 19 after a six-month arrest of the coronavirus. In Brussels, people will be free to walk free in most places. Masks will be needed in busy commercial areas or public transport where social distancing is more difficult.
At the moment, traveling to the 27 EU countries is a test for both tourists and airlines. Countries have various COVID-19 traffic light systems, where those in green are considered safe and those in red to be avoided. But each nation applies different rules and standards, making travel confusing for everyone.
The new regulation governing vaccination certificates was adopted in two votes in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. The rules for EU citizens were passed from 546 to 93, with 51 abstentions. Those outside the block went from 553 to 91, with 46 abstentions.
Voting has yet to be approved by EU nations, but it is probably a formality.
It means that starting from 1 July for 12 months, all EU countries must recognize the vaccine certificate. They will be issued free of charge and will certify that a person has been fully vaccinated against the virus, tested negative recently, or recovered from the disease.
The rules won’t be heavily enforced for 6 weeks to allow countries to prepare.
Passes will be issued by individual nations, not by a centralized European system. They will contain a QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries.
Spanish socialist legislator Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, who led the votes through parliament, said “EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate.”
People from third countries, the vast majority of whom would have to be vaccinated to enter, will be able to obtain a certificate if they can convince the authorities of the EU country they enter that they are eligible.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is expected to leave its stimulus efforts in full swing, even as the economy shows signs of recovery thanks to the easing of restrictions on the pandemic.
This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP writer David McHugh contributed to this report.
As a public service, the Monitor removed the paywall for all of our coronavirus coverage. It’s free.