Pack Your Bags, Europe Is Reopening for Travel (This Time for Real)

It is true! The European Union is finally reopening for the majority of travellers worldwide, and trips put at a halt since March 2020 can finally happen.

The continent of Europe is set to reopen to travellers this summer, in one way or another, preventing summer 2020 from repeating itself. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit hard in particular countries that rely on summer tourism, like Greece, Spain and Italy.

Last summer, like never before, most European beaches were shut, just like the rest of the tourist attractions throughout the continent. The absence of tourists affected the economy of every single EU member, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless, hotels and restaurants closing, with airlines reporting the highest drop in the number of international flights ever recorded.

All recent moves show that the same will not happen this summer. From Spain and Portugal in Southern Europe, Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, and Latvia in Northern Europe, the European Union Member States are one by one removing border restrictions for each other’s citizens and third-country nationals who have been vaccinated.

EU Member States Reopening Their Borders Through Vaccination Passports

When the idea of creating a travelling document that proves the holder has been vaccinated was unfolded back in March by the EU Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen, not everyone was fond of it.

However, as the idea was further developed to issue such documents also to those who have recovered from the virus and those who test negative, the EU members gradually embraced it, reports.

Now, one week ahead of the date when the EU COVID-19 vaccination passport for travel is officially launched, the majority of the member states are already issuing and verifying such documents.

>> All Details on EU COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Revealed: Here’s What You Need to Know

According to the European Commission, as of June 23, the following EU countries are effectively connected to the EUDCC gateway and are issuing and/or verifying at least one vaccination, recovery, negative test certificate:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czechia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Iceland

The first countries to start issuing these documents were Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland on June 1.

The rest of the EU and Schengen countries – Cyprus, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway – are technically ready to connect to the EUDCC gateway.

France has already announced that it will update its COVID-19 vaccination certificate on June 23 in order to harmonise it with the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Hungary and Malta are the only two EU countries still in the testing phase.

Data shows that the interest of Europeans to obtain certificates is very high. In Germany, for example, within two weeks, five million COVID vaccination travel passports have been issued.

The legislative process for the document has been completed on June 14, when the presidents of the three main EU institutions signed the Regulation at an official signing ceremony, two months after the block started working on the document.

Back in April 2020, had warned that vaccination against the Coronavirus would become a de facto requirement to travel throughout the EU Member States and even to apply for a Schengen visa.

EU’s List of Epidemiologically Safe Countries Finally Expanding

When the EU Commission first unfolded its list of epidemiologically safe third-countries, advising the Member States to open borders for the residents of the countries part of the list, everyone thought that the reopening of Europe was happening then.

However, with every update, more and more countries were dropped from the list until January, when the Council of the EU dropped Japan, and only seven countries were left on the list.

Yet, in the following updates, Japan and Israel were included, and now, with the update of June 18, the US, Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia, Taiwan and the Chinese administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have been added to the list.

As a result, the following countries are now part of this list:

  1. Albania
  2. Australia
  3. Chinese regions of Hong Kong and Macao
  4. Israel
  5. Japan
  6. Lebanon
  7. New Zealand
  8. Republic of North Macedonia
  9. Rwanda
  10. Serbia
  11. Singapore
  12. South Korea
  13. Taiwan
  14. Thailand
  15. United States of America

Through this list, the Council advises the 27 EU Member States to permit restriction-free entry for the residents of these countries regardless of their COVID-19 vaccinations status.

The Council will continue to review the list every two weeks in order to add more countries that meet the criteria to be part of the list and exclude those in which the COVID-19 situation deteriorates.

EU & Schengen Countries Individually Reopening Borders to Third-Country Citizens

Aside from the joint approaches of the Member States towards the reopening of borders for travellers, the Member States have also individually reopened their borders, to travellers from specific countries and categories, in a bid to revive tourism in time for summer

For example, since June 9, France has introduced the traffic light system, through which it permits travellers from the other 26 EU Member States, the US, Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein, Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, and Singapore to enter restrictions-free if they are vaccinated, and only with test results if they are not vaccinated.

Travellers from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Colombia, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Suriname, Nepal, and Turkey can only enter if they have a very strong purpose of entry, and are subject to strict quarantine.

Whereas, travellers from the rest of the world countries are eligible to enter France for non-essential purposes only if they are vaccinated.

Germany, on the other hand, has reopened the borders for travellers from the USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia and Lebanon from Sunday, June 20, regardless of their vaccination status.

The country will also permit entry for travellers from third countries vaccinated against the virus with one of the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and Janssen. The removal of the entry ban also applies to vaccinated tourists.

Unable to enter, regardless of their vaccination status, are travellers from variant countries, which are Botswana, Brazil, Eswatini, India, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of the Isle of Man as well as all Channel Islands and all British Overseas Territories

A summer hotspot for international tourists, Greece, permits entry for tourists from the EU, as well as the following third countries:

  1. Australia
  2. Bahrain
  3. Belarus
  4. Bosnia-Herzegovina
  5. Canada
  6. China
  7. Israel
  8. Kuwait
  9. Montenegro
  10. New Zealand
  11. North Macedonia
  12. Qatar
  13. Russia
  14. Rwanda
  15. Saudi Arabia
  16. Serbia
  17. Singapore
  18. South Korea
  19. Thailand
  20. Ukraine
  21. The United Arab Emirates
  22. The United Kingdom
  23. The United States

>> Travelling to Greece in Summer 2021: Here’s What You Need to Know

From June 28, Switzerland will also reopen its borders for travellers from third countries who have been vaccinated. The decision will not apply to arrivals from Brazil, Canada, India, Nepal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Other countries, including Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, and more, have also undertaken individual moves towards the restoration of travel and tourism.

Relaxed Criteria Under the Traffic Light System

As a part of its efforts to push the Member States to facilitate entry restrictions, the Council of the EU has made some changes to the recommendation on a coordinated approach on the restriction of free movement within the EU amid the pandemic.

Through the recommendation, the Council advises the Member States to keep in place the requirement of a negative test certificate for travellers from areas in the red and orange lists of countries.

Those coming from a red area who fail to present such a document can be required to self-isolate until they obtain a negative Coronavirus test result. In contrast, those reaching the EU members from orange areas may be obliged to undergo a test upon arrival in their EU destination country.

Exempt from the requirement of testing, no matter from what area they come should be all children under the age of 12.

The recommendation also tells the Member States to refrain from imposing testing and quarantine requirements to holders of vaccination passports.

If they chose to, the Member States are free to remove the restrictions after the first dose of a two-dose vaccine or only after both doses have been administered.

Recovery certificates of travellers who have recovered from the Coronavirus will be acceptable only in cases when they have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 180 days. These travellers should be exempt from the requirements of testing and quarantine as well.

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