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EC affirms July 1 reopening for international travel

The European Commission is committed to a resumption of international travel within the EU from July 1, airline leaders have been told.

But a full restart between Europe and the US could take longer, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told an Airlines for Europe (A4E) virtual summit.

Reynders said: “We’re trying to implement a lifting of restrictions for July 1. We have agreed a document, the Digital Covid Certificate, and it will be recognised in every member state. It will become binding from July.

“We’re sure that for the first time during the pandemic we will provide the means for airlines to come back. For the first time we are going in the right direction. We are equipped now to have the first good season.”

Asked if he was confident the certification scheme would work this summer, Reynders insisted: “I am quite sure.”

He told the summit of major European airlines: “We make recommendations to member states on how to lift restrictions [and] we have discussions now not to have additional restrictions for those who are vaccinated.”

Reynders made no mention of travel to and from the UK, but mutual recognition by the EU of the UK NHS vaccination certificate and by the UK of the EU Digital Covid Certificate is expected.

Discussions on a restart of travel to the US focus on the recognition of vaccinated passengers, since the US government has no plans to introduce a national Covid certificate although it has sanctioned international travel for those fully vaccinated.

Reynders said: “We start to discuss with the US but until now it does not seem there is a plan for a Federal certificate, so we have to agree how to do it.

“It’s possible it will be possible to travel from the US to the EU with proof of vaccination. We are in discussions to see if it will be possible to go the other way to the US.”

He noted an EU-US summit on June 15 could move things forward, saying: “The intention is to start again.” Reynders suggested that “presenting that intention” would be the most likely outcome of the summit.

US president Joe Biden and UK prime minister Boris Johnson agreed to set up a taskforce to examine how to restart US-UK travel ahead of the G7 summit in the UK this week.

Quizzed about the lack of EU coordination through much of the crisis, Reynders said: “We are sure it will be better now than at the start of the pandemic.

“The certificate is no more a recommendation, it is binding. Member states agreed to use it. Now we have a binding instrument.

“We want to avoid fragmentation. For example, do you need a negative test 48 hours before travel or 72 hours before? It must be possible to agree.

“It’s easier to coordinate, to work together, when lifting restrictions than when adding restrictions.”

Iata director general Willie Walsh told the summit: “I would have expected Europe to do better and to coordinate better.

“We’ve seen so many different decisions with no real evidence they are based on health risks and much more evidence that they are based on political risk.”

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