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Ursula von der Leyen says fully vaccinated US tourists will be able to visit the EU

Individual member states are likely to adopt the EU’s Green Cert plans at a different pace.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Image: Olivier Hoslet/PA Images

US TOURISTS VACCINATED against Covid-19 will be able to visit the European Union in the coming months, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said in an interview with The New York Times.

Signalling a major change in EU policy as vaccinations step up worldwide, von der Leyen gave no timetable, but the Times said that the new rules could be in place by this summer.

“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” she said. “This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union.

“Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA.”

The EMA, the bloc’s drug regulator, has approved the three vaccines being used in the United States — Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

The Times said the US’s rapid vaccination program, and progress in talks over how to use vaccine certificates, were behind the plan to allow the return of leisure travel from the US to EU.

Von der Leyen said that the United States was making “huge progress” and noted it was on track to vaccinate 70% of adults by the middle of June.

Resumption of travel would depend “on the epidemiological situation, but the situation is improving in the United States, as it is, hopefully, also improving in the European Union,” she added.

The pandemic has ravaged tourism in Europe, with many nations shutting borders for non-essential travel.

The European Parliament is set to vote this week on the proposal for Digital Green Certificate. The Green Certs are effectively an EU-wide database that would confirm someone is fully vaccinated and is therefore in a different risk category for travel. 

The New York Times reports that technical discussions are ongoing between EU and US officials about making vaccine certificates from each place broadly readable so that citizens can use them to travel without restrictions.

The report says this could include travellers to the EU receiving an EU vaccine-certificate equivalent on arrival after showing a bona fide certificate issued by his or her own government that they have been vaccinated. 

As of last week, fully vaccinated people entering Ireland are exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine but are required to quarantine at home. 

Greece said last week that travellers from the EU and five other countries who are vaccinated or have a recent negative Covid test will no longer have to quarantine on arrival.

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Speaking last week, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that the EUs Green Cert system could be in place in June but signalled that Ireland may not sign up to it at the beginning. 

“It will be up to countries to decide whether they want to buy into that from the start, or at a later point during the summer,” Coveney said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there is some way to go on a European level to finalise the Green cert proposal but that the position of the government on travel will change when more vaccinations have taken place. 

“There’s a bit of distance to go yet in terms of even the discussion at European Council on this,” he said. 

“We’re getting close to it  and by July there’ll be very, very significant vaccination across Europe, so our position will change in terms of travel advice. 

“I don’t believe we can seal off Ireland forever. We just can’t. We’re an inter-connected island. We’re a global island in terms of our economy, in terms of our society and in terms of our people. So by July, we will have very significant numbers of people vaccinated, so will other European member states and several other countries as well”. 

With reporting by © – 2021

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Rónán Duffy

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