EU plans to open international travel to fully vaccinated

Republic not included in Schengen-focused proposals on non-essential journeys

The European Commission has presented plans to open up non-essential travel into the bloc to people who have been vaccinated with European Union-approved jabs from around the world.

The Republic would not be covered by the agreement because it is not part of the Schengen free travel area or an associated member, but the State could choose to align.

Under the proposals, the EU would lift its recommended ban on non-essential travel from outside the bloc for people who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travel.

Only vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) – and potentially those cleared by the World Health Organisation will qualify.

Nevertheless, vaccinated travellers would still be subject to whatever restrictions on travellers, such as testing and quarantine requirements, are set by individual member states.

"The Commission is proposing to ease restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide, while addressing variants through a new emergency brake mechanism," European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said.

There are concerns that some new variants of Covid-19 could be resistant to vaccines. Reflecting this, the proposals include a plan for an “emergency-brake” system under which travel could be shut down from countries where variants of concern are spreading, including for vaccinated people. “We have virus variants which are real problems, and which could potentially undermine the vaccination campaign results,” Mr Jahnz said.

"We want to be able to pull that emergency brake in a co-ordinated way in the European Union, so we can block travel from countries that are affected by those variants."

The proposals were launched on Monday and are due to be discussed by ambassadors of the 27 member states this week. If agreed, the deal would not be binding as border and health measures are a national power, though countries that do support the measure would be expected to align.

Previous EU agreements on travel have been patchily applied by member states, which are in control of their own health and border policies. The proposals come as vaccination rates ramp up in the EU, and member states where tourism is economically important push for travel to be eased both into and within the bloc ahead of the summer.

A pan-EU digital system that would allow EU passengers to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated, have tested negative for Covid-19 or have recovered from the disease is due to be trialled later this month.