Since March 2020, the European Union (E.U.) has banned nonessential travel to Europe for Americans. Now, as the U.S. transitions from being among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic to one at the forefront of global vaccine rollout, it looks like this travel restriction may finally change in the coming months, per an announcement made by the head of the European Commission on April 25.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in a Sunday interview with the New York Times in Brussels. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union. Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.” The E.M.A., or the European Medicines Agency, is the drugs regulator for the European Union, and has approved all three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) currently being administered in the United States.
Von der Leyen gave no timeline for when the bloc will open to American travelers, nor how proof of vaccination will be required. But this declaration comes on the tails of other statements from European officials regarding vaccine passports. Just last week, president Emmanuel Macron of France said that the country would be opening to European citizens and Americans next month, based on the creation of a “special pass” for vaccinated individuals.
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“We will progressively lift the restrictions the beginning of May,” said Macron in an April 18 interview with CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’ “We are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say.”
The week prior to Macron’s announcement, the E.U. addressed the rollout of an approved (optional) vaccine passport known as the Digital Green Certificate, for European citizens moving throughout the Schengen Area. The Times reports that officials in the U.S. and the E.U. are in ongoing talks regarding how to make vaccine certificates that would be readable throughout both regions, so that travelers could rely on a more universal proof of vaccination to get around. Officials in Brussels have said that, while such a vaccine passport is being developed, more informal proof of vaccination (i.e., the document used in a traveler’s home country) may be accepted for entry into and travel within the E.U.ADVERTISEMENT
Per von der Leyen’s latest statements, the European Commission is set to recommend that the bloc change its travel policy to allow vaccinated Americans to travel to Europe, though it’s worth noting that member states reserve the right to impose stricter travel guidelines on visitors, including quarantine and testing requirements, even for fully vaccinated individuals. That said, several countries are clearly eager to welcome back American travelers, upon whom some states depend greatly for tourism dollars—particularly during the summer season.
On April 19, Greece opened to American travelers (and those from a small handful of other countries, including the U.K.), with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. Croatia, another E.U. member, is also fully open to vaccinated Americans, as well as those who were previously infected, those who show a negative test taken within 48 hours, or those who take a test upon arrival and receive a negative result. Other European, non-E.U. nations, like Georgia and Montenegro, are also welcoming vaccinated visitors.
While the news is exciting for fully vaccinated Americans looking to get back out there and travel to Europe this summer season, it also comes while many European countries face third waves of COVID outbreaks, which include cases attributed to variant strains. Germany and France are among the countries currently under lockdown (in France, for example, schools remain closed), while others, like Portugal and Italy, are gradually easing their own shutdowns—the latter announced on April 25 that it will partially open bars and restaurants throughout the country today.