EU leaders on Tuesday welcomed the introduction of a bloc-wide Covid-19 pass which they hope will unlock a tourist push this summer.
All 27 member states want the EU’s Covid digital certificate, which will launch on July 1, to turn the page on coronavirus restrictions that have hampered the freedom of movement Europeans cherish.
Coupled with a separate plan to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from countries outside the EU, to be defined by mid-June, Europe believes its vital tourism industry could recoup some of the losses accumulated since the start of the pandemic.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told a post-summit press conference that more than 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will have been delivered by the end of this week, rising to 400 million next month.
“If we continue in this way, we are confident that we will be able to reopen our societies safely,” she said, adding that the EU was on track to meet its goal of fully immunizing 70% of people. adults by the end of July.
“Gradually, we should return to the ability to move freely throughout the European Union,” said European Council President Charles Michel.
EU countries and the European Parliament reached agreement last week on legislation due to come into force in mid-June for the Covid certificate. Von der Leyen said all the tech infrastructure will be ready by June 1.
The leaders of Greece, Spain and Croatia, whose economies rely heavily on tourism spending, have been particularly effusive about the joint document.
They all experienced wiped out summer seasons last year, but are already starting to welcome foreign travelers again, ignoring Brussels’ plea for coordination at EU level.
– QR code verification –
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stressed that a scannable QR code on certificates will block “widely copied” PDF files of test or vaccination results that some people use to cross borders.
# photo1 The EU Covid certificate will indicate the vaccine status of the carrier, whether they are immune to a Covid infection from which they have recovered, or the result of a Covid test.
Recognizing that the EU has purchased up to 4.4 billion doses of vaccine over the next two years – far more than it needs for its population of 450 million – leaders have rallied to a commitment made at a G20 summit in Rome last Friday to share 100 million doses to countries in need by the end of this year.
Denmark and Sweden each pledged three million doses of their stocks at the summit. Germany, Italy and France had already pledged higher amounts.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had also pushed leaders to agree on a mechanism to “respond quickly and consistently” if disturbing new coronavirus variants emerge.
The Brussels meeting of EU leaders on Tuesday also discussed ways to share the burden of tackling climate change, in order to meet the target of reducing emissions by 55% over the rest of this decade.
Von der Leyen’s commission was tasked with defining next steps – including potentially unpopular ones such as imposing carbon taxes on cars and buildings.
The first day of Monday’s summit was overshadowed by Belarus, which lies just outside the EU’s eastern borders, forcing a Ryanair airliner to arrest an opposition journalist and his companion the day before who were on board.
EU leaders unanimously criticized the action and decided to cut Belarus off from European airspace as part of a set of sanctions that will be further developed.
© 2021 AFP