Opening ‚Fortress Europe‘: Brussels Plans to Ease Entry Restriction for Vaccinated Non-EU Travellers

Written by | Thursday, May 6th, 2021

The European Commission has suggested easing restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, reflecting the evolving epidemiological situation and progress of inoculation programmes worldwide. It is the “time to revive [Europe’s] tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely,” the president of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted on Monday (3 May). But the Commission recommends that member states allow only the entry of citizens from non-EU countries who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus using a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). As of today, the EMA has approved four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). Vaccines that have granted emergency use status by the World Health Organization (WHO) could also be accepted.
The EU executive also wants member states to lift all travel restrictions for both EU and non-EU residents, such as testing and quarantine on arrival, for the fully vaccinated tourists entering their territory. Brussels believes that the introduction of the EU digital green certificate (travel pass) will help countries facilitate the entry and movement of vaccinated people, while certificates from non-EU countries should also be accepted, according to the Commission, “taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data”. Besides taking into account vaccination, the Commission also recommends expanding the list of countries that are considered to have a “good epidemiological situation” and whose residents are allowed to enter the bloc for non-essential reasons. Closer to Europe, there is a “question mark” about how former EU member Britain, which has strained relations with Brussels post-Brexit, might benefit from the bloc’s easing of rules. While acknowledging the good figures and promising pace of vaccination in the UK, Brussels also takes into account the need for reciprocity, which will have to be mulled over collectively by the EU member states.
Meanwhile, “the stop-and-go strategy is detrimental for long-term economic growth because it prevents firms from long-term planning,“ said Professor Philippe Aghion, an economist and professor at the Collège de France and at INSEAD, explicitly criticizing the European countries‘ “stop-and-go” approach to lockdowns. „Instead of investing in innovation, they accumulate cash to face the next lockdown. Instead of investing in skills, they hire on a short-time basis.” In contrast, Australia, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea – all countries that used aggressive public health measures to try and eliminate COVID-19 infections – have had fewer deaths and better economic outcomes than others, a new study has revealed. The COVID-19 deaths per one million people in these five countries was 25 times lower than countries, such as in Europe, that opted to mitigate the virus spread instead of trying to eliminate it, the study published in The Lancet.

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