Tuesday, May 4, 2021

EU Commission Proposes Reopening Borders for Vaccinated Third-Country Citizens

The European Commission has brought forward a proposal to the Member States to gradually start reopening the borders for travellers from third countries who are vaccinated, wishing to enter the EU and Schengen Area countries for non-essential purposes.

The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,” the Commission said in a press release unfolding its proposal.

The proposal has been sent to the Member States on Monday, May 3, over a month ahead of the planned launch of the COVID-19 EU Travel Certificates, through which the EU bodies intend to restore travel within the block as soon as possible.

According to the press release of the EU’s executive body, the same certificates will be issued to travellers from third countries, who can prove they have been fully vaccinated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)

Other certificates may also be used to enter the EU, given that they are recognised as equivalent by the  Commission.

Until the Digital Green Certificate is operational, Member States should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data,” the Commission says.

The proposal also guides the Member States to remove the requirements for COVID-19 testing and quarantine for third-country citizens, if such obligations have been abolished for vaccinated EU citizens and residents.

At the same time, the EU Commission is also suggesting to the Member States to increase the threshold regarding the number of new COVID-19 cases used to determine citizens of which third countries should be allowed to travel to the block.

According to this point of the proposal, while non-essential travel is currently permitted from seven third countries listed as epidemiologically safe, the threshold of two-week cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate should increase from 25 to as many as 100.

This remains considerably below the current EU average, which is over 420,” the Commission recalls.

Further, the Commission notes that travel for essential purposes should remain permitted, regardless of travellers’ country of origin or their vaccination status.

It also notes that given that the epidemiological situation of a non-EU country deteriorates quickly and in particular, if a new variant of the virus is detected, a Member State is permitted to urgently and temporarily suspend all inbound travel for the non-EU travellers.

Exempt even in such cases should remain healthcare professionals, transport personnel, diplomats, transit travellers, those travelling for urgent family reasons, seafarers, and those in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons. Yet, these travellers should be subject to strict testing and quarantine arrangements even if they have been vaccinated.

Now, the proposal has been sent to the Council, and the latter is set to hold its first discussion at the technical level today, on May 4. Later at a meeting on May 5, the EU ambassadors will also discuss the proposal.

Once the proposal is adopted by the Council, it remains to the Member States to implement the measures set out in the recommendation.

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