Opening up the EU to travel

The European Commission is proposing to allow entry from more countries, and allow all people who have received an EU-authorised vaccine.  EU Member States have also agreed guidelines for technical specifications for the implementation of the digital green passport, due in June.

The European Commission is proposing that Member States ease the current restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide.

Allowing inbound EU travel

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. This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO Emergency Use Listing procedure.

The Commission proposes a new emergency brake mechanism, to be coordinated at EU level and which would allow Member States to act quickly and temporarily limit to a strict minimum all travel from affected countries for the time needed to put in place appropriate measures.

The Commission argues that if Member States decide to waive the requirements to present a negative PCR test and/or to undergo quarantine for vaccinated persons on their territory, they should also waive such requirements for vaccinated travellers from outside the EU.

Non-essential travel regardless of individual vaccination status is currently permitted from seven countries with a good epidemiological situation. The Commission is proposing to amend the criteria to take into account the mounting evidence of the positive impact of vaccination campaigns.

Those travelling for essential reasons, including urgent medical treatment should continue to be allowed to enter the EU, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or which country they come from. The same applies to EU citizens and long-term residents as well as their family members. Such travel should continue to be subject to health-related measures, such as testing and quarantine as decided by Member States.

Once the Council adopts the proposal, it will be for Member States to implement the measures set out in the recommendation.

Allowing travel in the EU

Travellers should soon be able to prove their vaccination status with a Digital Green Certificate issued by Member States’ authorities on an individual basis, or with another certificate recognised as equivalent by virtue of a Commission adequacy decision.

EU Member States have now agreed guidelines for technical specifications for the implementation of the digital green passport. This is a crucial step for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure at EU level. Member States will deploy the needed technical solutions at national level.

The agreed technical specification covers data structure and encoding mechanisms, including the QR code, which will ensure that all certificates, whether digital or on paper, can be read and verified across the EU.

The technical implementation and legislative process both need speeding up to ensure a roll-out of the certificates across the EU by June 2021.

The European Commission plans to launch this digital health card system in June.  The testing phase of the certificate has begun in 18 member states plus Iceland, testing the interoperability of the facilities that will upload and download data, and produce the passes. As of June 1, member states will be able to upload real data.