In an announcement that is sure to be welcomed by travelers from around the world, EU officials on Monday proposed easing restrictions on visiting the 27-nation bloc as vaccination campaigns across the continent accelerate.
Travel to the European Union is currently extremely limited, except in a handful of countries with low infection rates. But with the summer tourist season looming, the bloc’s European Commission hopes the new recommendations will dramatically expand that list.
The Commission hopes the measure will soon allow travelers to meet their friends and family living in Europe and support the bloc’s economy this summer.
“It is time to revive the EU tourism industry and rekindle cross-border friendships, safely,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors and those from countries with good sanitary conditions.”
Under the Commission proposal, entry would be granted to all those who are fully vaccinated with EU-authorized vaccines. Coronavirus vaccines licensed by the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The EMA has not approved any vaccines from Russia or China so far, but is analyzing data for Russia’s Sputnik V jab.
EU nations could also individually decide to accept travelers immunized with WHO-listed vaccines for emergency use. The UN health agency has approved the same four vaccines as the EMA and is expected to deliver a decision on China’s Sinopharm vaccine soon.
EU officials believe the bloc’s COVID-19 vaccination campaigns will soon be “a game changer” in the fight against the deadly virus. His proposal will be discussed with EU ambassadors this week and the Commission hopes it can start in June, once it is adopted by member states. Still, the recommendation is not binding and EU countries will have the right to keep the travel restrictions in force if they so wish.
Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said fully vaccinated travelers coming from outside the EU should be able to visit Europe, but insisted that the aim of the proposal is not to exempt them from testing or quarantines upon arrival.
“This remains largely in the hands of the member states,” he said.