*Updates with leaders’ green light at EU summit
EU leaders approved on Tuesday (25 May) Europe’s COVID-19 Certificate, aimed at facilitating travel across the bloc, following months of discussions with the European Parliament and the Commission.
The European Parliament and the member states reached a provisional deal on 20 May on COVID-19 certificates designed to facilitate travel and help revive tourism in Europe.
Leaders put the finishing touches at an EU summit on Tuesday, and then the European Parliament is set to give the final green light at the 7-10 June plenary. The certificate is projected to be fully operational as of 1 July.
However, details and the question of whether returning tourists will be required to quarantine will doubtless determine the success of the bloc’s efforts to save the summer season.
“Everybody in the EU understands that the COVID-19 certificate is a necessity and will help re-open travel across the bloc,” one EU diplomat told EURACTIV.
Certificates will be granted to those who have been vaccinated, can show a negative PCR test or proof they have recovered from coronavirus.
In case of recovery from infection, certification will be given from the 11th day from the first positive test – it is believed that people are no longer contagious from this point – and will be valid until the 180th day.
One thorny issue is whether tourists will need to quarantine on return to their home country. EU countries are expected to retain the right to quarantine travellers returning from countries with high infection rates even if they have a certificate.
“There is still much uncertainty regarding mutations and especially the Indian one,” the diplomat said, adding that countries wishing returning tourists to quarantine will have to notify the Commission two days in advance and that the measure should be “proportionate”.
Critics say imposing a quarantine on returning travellers would discourage tourism.
There are also fears that some western European countries, which have been dragging their heels over the certificate since the very beginning, may use this option to encourage their citizens stay home and boost domestic consumption in light of the losses during the lockdown.
Regarding the cost of PCR tests, the European Parliament wanted it to be funded by the EU budget and be offered for free to citizens. Almost €100 million from the EU budget has been earmarked for this reason, which will not make PCR tests free, but more affordable to citizens.
The EU certificate is first and foremost intended to facilitate travel. However, some countries want to use it for other domestic activities such as admission to cinemas, theatres and restaurants.
The diplomat said that it would be up to the member states how to use it domestically and the legality of this measure would have to be decided by national courts.
Austria for example has said that vaccinated people will be given a national “Green Pass”, which will allow them to visit restaurants, hotels or cultural facilities without the need for a negative test result.
In this case, the diplomat said these countries will be obliged to recognise the EU certificate of foreign citizens visiting the country.
In other news, EU leaders are also expected to agree to donate 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year to third countries to help tackle the pandemic at the global level.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]