EU Countries Agree To Open Borders To Vaccinated Travelers

Flight board
Credit: Fraport AG

PARIS—European member states agreed to open borders to international travelers vaccinated against COVID-19, with the European Council agreeing on a proposal aimed at encouraging a recovery in travel demand.  

The European Council, which is made up of the leaders of EU member states, agreed on a European Commission (EC) proposal put forward earlier in May. The proposal recommended easing restrictions on non-essential travel into the bloc to take account of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and the spread of the virus. It would also impose an “emergency brake” mechanism to deal with the threat of new variants.  

“We welcome the EU Council agreement on updating the approach to travel from outside the EU,” the EC said. “The Council now recommends that EU countries ease some of the current restrictions, in particular for those vaccinated with an authorized vaccine.”  

EC spokesperson Christian Wigand said an agreement on the emergency brake mechanism has also been reached. The mechanism foresees member states being able to quickly suspend travel for non-EU residents from a country in which the health situation was worsening or worrying variants were detected. Certain exceptions will be allowed.  

“The council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted based on the new criteria,” Wigand added. 

The EC proposed raising the threshold of the number of new coronavirus infection cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be allowed from 25 to 100, below the EU average of over 420.  

“This will help progressively resuming international inbound travel where it’s possible to do so safely while at the same time ensuring quick action to counter the spread of new virus variants,” Wigand said, adding that the revised recommendation would now need to be formally adopted by the Council.  

The EU is also working on a Digital Green Certificate, now renamed the EU COVID-19 Certificate, which it says should enable travelers to prove their vaccination status.  

Separately, as individual countries eased their own travel restrictions, IATA welcomed the progress, saying that more than 20 countries had now pledged to wholly or partially ease restrictions for vaccinated travelers.  

“IATA supports unrestricted access to travel for vaccinated travelers,” IATA said. “In cases where vaccination is not possible, access to quarantine-free travel should be provided through COVID-19 testing strategies based on widely available, free-of-charge tests.” IATA cited Germany as being among the latest countries to remove quarantine measures for vaccinated travelers and those with a negative test, except for travelers coming from certain high-risk countries.  

“A safe opening of borders to international travel is the goal,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said. “There is increasing scientific evidence that vaccination is not only protecting people but also dramatically reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This is bringing us closer to a world where vaccination and testing enables the freedom to travel without quarantine. Germany and at least 20 other countries have already taken an important step forward in re-opening their borders to vaccinated travelers. These are the best practice examples for others to quickly follow.”


Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.