European Union leaders will meet on Thursday in a video summit to discuss ways to restrict travel into the region, as new, aggressive variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 threaten to overwhelm many countries’ health care systems.
- EU leaders may discuss the idea of a “vaccine passport” that would allow inoculated persons to circulate freely within the union, even though many governments have already signaled they would oppose a measure they deem “discriminatory.”
- Denmark has, however, already started preparing such a passport, in case its citizens traveling abroad might need it in the future.
- Most governments already require a recent negative test before allowing in foreign visitors, and France and the U.K. then require a second test within days of arrival.
- Countries such as France or the Netherlands have banned all incoming visitors from the U.K., save for essential travel, on account of the highly infectious new virus variant fast spreading in Britain.
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opined on Wednesday that “the blanket closure of borders in this situation makes no sense,” since it harms the single market and is, according to her, less effective than targeted measures.
The outlook: EU governments already have some latitude to regulate their borders, including banning non-EU citizens from entry for health or security reasons on a temporary basis. The real question is whether the 27 member states can agree on a modicum of coordination of their COVID-19 pandemic travel policies.
But anxiety is mounting, as policy makers fear that they will lose the race against the virus’ new forms if their vaccination campaigns don’t pick up steam. These are currently hindered by logistical bottlenecks and threatened with industrial shortages.