Travel and tourism associations worldwide welcomed the news on Thursday of a provisional agreement between EU lawmakers and member states on the highly anticipated Covid-19 certificates set to facilitate restriction-free movement within the EU.
The European Parliament and Council reached a compromise in time for the start of the summer holiday season, which means that travelers holding the EU Covid-19 certificate will not be subject to quarantine restrictions when visiting EU countries.
Under the deal, the certificate should be in place for 12 months.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the news confirming that the digital pass will be up and running before the summer.
“European citizens are looking forward to traveling again, and today’s agreement means they will be able to do so, safely, (and) very soon,” she said, adding that it is free of charge, secure and accessible to all while respecting citizens’ fundamental rights and personal data.
The EU Covid-19 Certificate (also referred to as the Digital Green Certificate) will be available in paper or digital format.
“Work still remains,” said von der Leyen urging EU members to move ahead with the roll-out of their national systems to ensure the system is operational “as soon as possible”.
The Greek government has said that Greece’s Covid-19 certificate system will be in place as of June 1.
The new Covid certificate, initially tabled by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in January, will indicate whether the holder has been vaccinated, has a negative PCR result or a recovery certificate and is aimed at enabling travel.
Didier Reynders, the EU’s commissioner for justice, described it as a “new tool in record time to safeguard free movement for all EU citizens”.
Travel & Tourism Bodies Happy with EU Covid Pass Deal
Meanwhile, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) welcomed the news. “We’re one step closer to a coordinated approach to the safe restart tourism. With swift and concrete actions, the EU sets a great example,” it said via twitter, committing to support fully the EU in its initiative.
Senior Vice President of the WTTC Virginia Messina said the certificate “could be the key to unlocking international travel and to saving thousands of businesses and millions of jobs across Europe and beyond”.
Messina called on all EU states to have the certificate up and running by July 1 with no extra restrictions.
“The European Commission must be applauded for its incredible efforts in launching this major initiative, which could be the driving force behind the resurrection of travel and tourism,” she said.
Travel companies and airlines also expressed their satisfaction with the news, hoping the restart of tourism will also drive the recovery process. Representing Europe’s travel agents and tour operators, ECTAA welcomed the news.
“Travel companies welcome the agreement on European Covid Certificate. Safe travels are possible for summer 2021. Free Movement will only be sustainable if the reopening of travel and EU tourism by governments is coordinated” ECTAA said.
Airlines for Europe (A4E) said it was “thrilled” with the news. “EU travelers are now one step closer to the free movement they enjoyed before the pandemic,” it said on twitter.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has repeatedly called for a travel pass to enable movement, thanked the EU Commission and Parliament “for pushing hard for measures to restart freedom of movement in Europe”.
“Lifting restrictions on vaccinated passengers is a step forward. We urge EU states to implement the recommendation,” it said.
Lastly, Mitsotakis who was the first to suggest the idea of a commonly accepted travel pass, said it was an “extremely positive development”.
“Greece has been a strong advocate from the outset as it will facilitate the freedom of movement within the EU and contribute to the efforts for economic recovery,” he said.
Next steps for the proposal include being formally adopted by EU member states and then to the European Parliament for ratification set for its next plenary session in June.