The European Union is seeking to resume “transatlantic travel as soon as it is safe to do so,” and is urging member nations to take a unified approach to opening borders to US citizens.
EU officials have been “following very closely the progress of vaccination in the United States” and the speedy rollout there is promising in terms of lifting travel restrictions on Americans, European Commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz said at a press conference Monday.
Regarding an interview European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave to The New York Times in which she said Americans would be able to have summer vacations in the bloc, Jahnz said the use of European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines in the US “will help to enable travel to the EU.”
All three vaccines in use in the US are EMA-approved.
The EU halted all nonessential travel to the bloc more than a year ago in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Jahnz told journalists that talks are under way between the EU and the US to ensure “coherence and compatibility” on vaccination certification that could facilitate transatlantic travel.
The European Commission is preparing a proposal for member states to “amend the recommendation on the external travel restriction, in order to take into account the recent developments.”
Jahnz stressed that the lifting of travel restrictions depends on the epidemiological situation in the countries involved.
“The spread of variants remains a concern, which is why from our perspective a coordinated approach on a European level remains essential,” he said.
However, the final decision on whether to allow travel to an EU member state will come from each country individually, as decisions about borders are made by the member state, and not the European Commission, according to EU guidelines.
Greece, for example, has already announced plans to lift quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers and those testing negative for Covid-19 from some tourism markets, including Europe, the UK and the US.
But Jahnz underlined the need for coordination.
“This coordinated approach is set out in a council recommendation, which was agreed by all member states and it should be followed, which is in the interest of all member states and of the EU in general, and member states themselves have underlined the need to have such a common approach,” he said.
“Unilateral approaches from our perspective should be avoided.”
Italy welcomed the proposal to open up to non-EU travelers, and the tourism minister said in a statement to CNN that it already has plans to start lifting restrictions.
Non-EU tourists “will not be obliged to follow the quarantine if they are vaccinated, or immune or with negative swab test, carried out 48 hours prior entry. This rule will become effective very soon,” said Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia.
White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told CNN’s Pamela Brown that von der Leyen’s comments Sunday to The Times are an affirmation of the US vaccination program.
“What the world is basically saying is, they’re looking at the US, they’re looking at the success of our vaccination program, they’re looking at the reduction of disease, and while they know we’re not done yet, they’re saying those Americans are safe to come to our country without risk of spreading Covid-19,” Slavitt said.
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates about 28% of Americans are now fully vaccinated.