Statement by Commissioners Kyriakides and Reynders on the Council agreement to strengthen coordination of safe travel in the EU

(Source: European Commission)

Today, EU ministers have reached an agreement on updating the rules to facilitate safe and free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. This agreement follows the Commission’s proposal of 25 November 2021.

Welcoming the adoption by the Council, Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, and Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said:

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have put forward solutions to safeguard and facilitate safe and free movement in the context of health measures made necessary by the pandemic. Close coordination at EU level has been essential, not only for the functioning of the Single Market, but in particular to provide clarity and safety for people traveling within the EU. Clarity and predictability for our citizens is key to the success of safe travel, through our well-established and very successful EU Digital COVID Certificate. More than 1.2 billion certificates issued testify to the success of this tool, which has been rolled out across the EU and on a global scale. It is a true European success story that has gone global.

Today, Member States have reconfirmed that the possession of a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate should in principle be sufficient when travelling during the pandemic. This agreement thus puts the EU Digital COVID Certificate at the heart and centre of our coordinated approach. It is important that Member States follow up on this agreement and implement the rules agreed without delay. Each Member State decides based on the circumstances it is facing. But Omicron has by now spread across Europe and it is time to look at the discontinuation of the additional travel measures that a number of Member States have introduced in the past weeks, making travel more cumbersome and less predictable across the EU.  

We now call on all Member States to implement the common rules swiftly to ensure coordination and clarity for our citizens and travellers.”

Background

Among the key updates of the recommendation are:

In principle no additional restrictions for holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Aligning the validity period with the delegated act, 270 days for primary vaccination cycle.

Any measures restricting free movement must be non-discriminatory and proportionate. Member States should in principle not refuse entry to persons travelling from other Member States.

More detailed information is available in this factsheet.

On 3 September 2020, the Commission made a proposal for a Council Recommendation to ensure that any measures taken by Member States that restrict free movement due to the coronavirus pandemic are coordinated and clearly communicated at EU level.

On 13 October 2020, EU Member States committed to ensuring more coordination and better information sharing by adopting the Council Recommendation.

On 1 February 2021, the Council adopted a first update to the Council Recommendation, which introduced a new colour, ‘dark red’, for the mapping of risk areas and set out stricter measures applied to travellers from high-risk areas.

On 20 May 2021, the Council amended the Council Recommendation to allow non-essential travel for fully vaccinated people, as well as to strengthen the measures to contain the spread of variants of concern.

On 14 June 2021, the Parliament and the Council adopted the Regulation establishing the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework. The Commission’s work on the EU Digital COVID Certificates was led by Commissioner Didier Reynders in close cooperation with Vice-Presidents Věra Jourová and Margaritis Schinas and Commissioners Thierry Breton, Stella Kyriakides, and Ylva Johansson. To make best use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, the Council adopted, on the same day, a second update to the Council Recommendation, providing for exemptions from travel restrictions for fully vaccinated and recovered persons.

Since June 2021, the rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate has progressed at rapid pace. On 18 October 2021, the Commission issued the first report on the EU Digital COVID Certificate system, a widely available and reliably accepted tool to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 25 November, in view of these developments, the Commission proposed to update the common approach set out in Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/1475, which was also a request made by the European Council in its conclusions of 22 October 2021.

On 21 December, to ensure a common approach across all Member States, the Commission adopted  Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/2288 establishing, in the context of travel, a standard acceptance period of 270 days for vaccination certificates indicating the completion of the primary series.

The latest information on travel rules as communicated by Member States are available on the Re-open EU website.

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