EU Seeks To Relax Restrictions for Travel into the Bloc

 - May 3, 2021, 2:37 PM

The European Commission on Monday recommended easing restrictions on non-essential travelers from outside the EU and allowing entry into the 27-member-state bloc for fully vaccinated foreign citizens and non-residents. “This reflects the latest scientific advice showing that vaccination considerably helps to break the transmission chain,” the commission said in a statement. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that it is “time to revive the EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle—safely.”

In its proposal, the EU’s executive arm specified that travelers would need to have received, at least 14 days before arrival, the last recommended dose of a Covid-19 vaccine that gained marketing authorization in the EU. The European Medicines Agency so far has approved the use of vaccines produced by BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. National governments could additionally, if they choose, accept vaccines that have cleared the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing process.

The commission also is proposing to ease the parameters the EU has been using to determine a list of countries with a so-called “good epidemiological situation” from which it allows all travel. Only seven countries now feature on that list—Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and China although entry for travelers from China is subject to reciprocity.

The European Commission can only give recommendations regarding border closures and the Council, which represents the member states, will need to approve the proposal. A first meeting to discuss the rules is scheduled for May 4.

The new entry rules for non-essential travel, if adopted, will apply to all 27 EU member states except Ireland, as well as the four non-EU states that have joined the Schengen travel area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

The proposal includes a so-called emergency brake, which would allow national governments to restore travel bans on countries where risky new variants emerge or contagion rates spike.