EU countries move towards COVID passes to reopen summer travel


FILE PHOTO: A couple is seen next to rows of empty hammocks during the coronavirus pandemic in Albufeira, Portugal, July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union countries formally agreed on Wednesday to launch COVID travel passes as a step towards reopening to tourism this summer and will negotiate details with the bloc's lawmakers in May, two diplomatic sources said.

The certificates would allow those vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or with negative test results to travel more easily in the EU, where restrictions on movement have weighed heavily on the travel and tourist industry for over a year.

The 27 EU member states "underlined their commitment to have the framework ready by the summer of 2021," said a document endorsed by national envoys and seen by Reuters.

The European Parliament, which must also agree to the proposal for it to take effect, is due to agree its own position later this month and final talks between the lawmakers, national envoys and the bloc's executive are expected to start in May.

EU countries are working in parallel to ensure "that the necessary technological solutions are in place", the EU27 decision read, so that the new digital or paper certificates can be put to use once approved.

The member states' agreement includes provisions against discrimination towards those who cannot or do not wish to get vaccinated and allows for a range of tests to prove recovery.

While member states would be obliged to recognise EU-approved vaccines, specific countries could also issue certificates covering jabs Russia's Sputnik or China's Sinovac vaccines that are only authorised on their territory.

Other EU countries would decide whether to accept a certificate referring to a vaccine not approved by EU regulators.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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