If all goes well, tourists can go back to the Spanish beaches or Italian cities this summer with an EU travel pass in their pocket. The European Commission has presented the plan in which people who have been vaccinated have a negative test or have anti-substances because they have already had covid-19 can get such a travel pass. They just dont get all the same.
It is clear from the Commissions plans that these are actually three different steps. A pass for vaccinees, one for people with a recent negative test and one for people who have had the disease in the past six months.
The Commission would like to see countries treating these three different groups in the same way, but ultimately the countries themselves will take over. Countries may impose additional requirements on people with a travel pass, for example by requiring quarantine or an additional test. They may also choose to impose additional requirements for one of the three groups and not for the other two.
Commission officials call making a difference between the three groups undesirable. For example, countries may require vaccinated people to be tested. The likelihood of people becoming infected with the coronavirus after being vaccinated is smaller, but certainly not non-existent. It is also not yet fully clear whether vaccinated people pass on the virus even further.
Another possibility is that non-vaccinated people with a travel pass will be asked to quarantine upon arrival. Several countries, for example the Netherlands, are demanding it now, because people can already have the virus while they test negative. After the introduction of the pass, countries can therefore continue to impose this quarantine requirement.
The fact that there are different types of travel passes is remarkable because the Commission wanted to prevent that only vaccinees will be able to travel easily through Europe. This would set up groups against each other, because some of the European population probably did not have the chance to get vaccinated at all this summer.
The spectre was that the Spanish beaches will soon be full of vaccinated elderly people, while young people will be forced to stay at home. That would still be possible if Spain decided to allow only vaccinees. Countries must inform the Commission if they impose additional requirements on travellers and also explain why they are making these requirements.
In the European Parliament, there is no understanding of the distinction. “The Commission is trying to make the proposal so that all countries agree,” says Vera Tax of the PvdA. “Ultimately, the starting point is that there will be no additional measures. This is a pragmatic solution, it is up to the Member States to make no distinction between the different groups in practice.”
Sophie int Veld (D66) hopes that the parliament can make the distinction between the groups even smaller, but also understands that it is there. “The best way to avoid this is not to make a travel pass at all, but then you also punish people who are no longer at risk of corona.”