“We want people to be able to travel in safety,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during the Nueva Economia Forum organized by Spain, referring to the importance of promptly reaching an agreement in the EU on a single vaccination certificate and on the implementation of common Covid-19 protocols.
Mitsotakis said the priority was making travel safe and easier. “In this direction, vaccination certificates are very important,” he said, adding that this can only happen with the right protocols in place.
“We have very strict protocols in our tourism industry as to what activities are on offer and what activities may not be available this summer… as well as on ways to protect tourism professionals, how additional tests will be conducted, in addition to the pre-boarding testing,” he said.
In this direction, he said Greece was taking last year’s lessons and moving a step forward.
“We learned from last year’s lessons and this year we will open with greater security,” adding that he will have more to say in May or June, when a significant part of the population will have been vaccinated and achieved resistance to the virus.
The Greek prime minister went on to express his optimism that by spring or summer “we will have left the pandemic behind us”.
“We want people coming to Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy to feel safe and that they are not entering a red zone. I believe that this will happen in the spring or definitely in the summer as we will have vaccinated a significant percentage of the population,” he said.
Referring to the key role of tourism for many Southern European economies, Mitsotakis underlined that a Europe-wide approach to enabling safe travel was “absolutely necessary”.
The European Commission has said that the issue will be discussed further in the coming weeks.
“I think it’s a good sign,” said Mitsotakis, adding that member states need to work together to ensure that “we use this as a ‘first stage’ just for medical purposes, and then I think we need to talk on a political level – when the work is done on an infrastructure level – if we can expand its function to facilitate travel.”
Mitsotakis clarified once again that the certificate is not a passport or mandatory but a tool to facilitate travel and restart tourism in a safe manner.
“I believe this is vital for our countries as we hope for a better tourism season compared to last year, and I am sure that in the end, the European Commission will move in this direction. But even if that does not happen, member states will move in this direction as they want to enable their citizens to have a vaccination certificate which they will be able to use in other countries to facilitate travel,” said Mitsotakis.
Earlier this month, the Greek PM said that if a unified approach was not achieved, Greece would “proceed bilaterally with all the countries that interest us.”