Greece is pushing its EU partners to approve Covid-19 vaccine certificates which would allow for the opening of travel throughout Europe, the Greek tourism minister said on Tuesday.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Harry Theocharis called on EU leaders to “move more quickly” to embrace the vaccine certificates.
“Looking at the reaction of some countries to vaccination certificate proposals, I feel there’s a lot of short-sightedness. There’s more to be done now to prepare ourselves,” Theocharis told the British paper.
“Some countries are very much preoccupied with the now,” he pointed out, as northern European nations, in particular, were unwilling to look ahead and plan for an economic recovery in the summer.
However, he urged “We need to move more quickly.”
The introduction of vaccination passports that could allow leisure and business travelers to move between countries after being inoculated will be discussed at the EU summit that begins on Thursday.
The EU is divided and diplomats see early adoption of the proposed system as unlikely, because of fears they will set up a discriminatory two-tier system of citizens’ travel rights, the Financial Times added.
Certificate will negate the need for quarantines
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis already floated the idea of vaccination certificates earlier this year.
“A vaccination certificate will allow you to enter Greece without having to show a negative Covid test or undergo quarantine restrictions,” Mitsotakis explained in a Bloomberg television interview.
“And we intend to continue in the same context in which we agreed in principle with Israel. This vaccination certificate will be accepted, with the aim of facilitating travel from Israel to Greece,” he noted.
“People will want to travel. For me it does not make sense not to facilitate travel – to the extent of course that we will feel comfortable welcoming those who have been vaccinated,” he added.
“For those who have not been vaccinated, the most likely scenario is that they will be asked for some form of negative test.
“But for those who have been vaccinated, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to travel to Greece.
“I see that many EU Member States are interested in further exploring this idea. And I think the reason is that their citizens want to travel and they want to make travel as easy as possible, especially during the summer holidays,” Mitsotakis explained.
Tourism vital for Greece
Tourism is absolutely vital to the Greek economy, accounting for about one fifth of GDP and employment, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE).
Despite a partial reopening last summer, the restrictions on international travel made Greece’s GDP drop four percentage points, UN estimates suggest, as hotel and accommodation revenues slumped by two-thirds.
The Greek sector is almost entirely reliant on international tourism with the domestic population too small and still too financially constrained following the country’s 2008 debt crisis to make up for the drop in external visitors, according to the Financial Times.