By Veronika Verzhak
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says vaccinated US tourists should be able to travel to the EU this summer.
In an interview with the New York Times, Ms Von der Leyen said the EU would “switch policy, under certain conditions”, after more than a year of mostly banning non-essential travel.
Her remarks come after French President Emmanuel Macron told CBS news earlier this month that France is finalising plans to open the door to vaccinated Americans this summer.
In the interview, von der Leyen stated, “Americans, as far as I see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” adding, “This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union.”
Von der Leyen suggested that the EU’s rules on non-essential travel would change in time for summer to also take into account vaccination coverage.
Talks are currently under way between US authorities and the European Commission as to how to make vaccination certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has issued an official statement saying it is encouraged by the comments of Ms von der Leyen.
“This is a step in the right direction. It gives hope to people for so many reasons—to travel, to reunite with loved ones, to develop business opportunities or to get back to work. To fulfil that hope, details of the EC’s intentions are essential. To be fully prepared, it is imperative that the EC works with the industry so that airlines can plan within the public health benchmarks and timelines that will enable unconditional travel for those vaccinated, not just from the US but from all countries using vaccines that are approved by the European Medicines Association. Equally critical will be clear, simple and secure digital processes for vaccination certificates. The IATA Travel Pass can help industry and governments manage and verify vaccination status, as it does with testing certificates. But we are still awaiting the development of globally recognized standards for digital vaccine certificates. As a first step, it is vital that the EU accelerates adoption of the European Green Certificate. President von der Leyen’s comments should add urgency to this work,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
While IATA welcomes President von der Leyen’s comments, the freedom to travel should not, says IATA, exclude those who are unable to be vaccinated. The presentation of negative COVID-19 test results should, says ITATA, also facilitate travel. Central to this is acceptance by EU governments of rapid antigen tests that the Commission has approved for use and which fulfil the critical criteria of effective, convenient and affordable.
“The freedom to travel must not be restricted to only those who have access to vaccinations. Vaccines are not the only way to safely re-open borders. Government risk-models should also include COVID-19 testing,” said Walsh.
Photo – top of page – Allessia Cocconi