Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Negotiations between the EU and the US to recognise each other’s vaccination passes are struggling to make headway due to the absence of a federal certification system in America, according to a diplomatic memo seen by Bloomberg.

EU ambassadors were told at a meeting on Thursday last week that the European Commission is in an advanced stage of talks with the UK, and in contact with Japan, Australia and Canada. Discussions with Ottawa were described as promising and officials are hoping that the EU’s Covid-19 certificates will be recognised in September when Canada is due to reopen travel to vaccinated non-US travellers, the memo reads.

The talks are taking place as Europe and much of the western world starts to gradually open up air travel after it ground to a near halt during the pandemic. But with the Delta variant becoming dominant in much of the EU, and vaccination and infection rates varying across countries, rules remain patchy. Some countries require people to quarantine while others only allow vaccinated arrivals.

The US has been slow to lift a ban on visitors from most of Europe instituted during the Trump administration and continued by President Joe Biden.

The EU launched its Covid-19 pass, which also registers negative tests, at the beginning of the month. The commission told ambassadors that up to July 19, more than 290-million certificates had been issued, of which 230-million are vaccination passes. It also noted that by early July, air traffic had increased 20% and is expected to reach more than 60% of 2019 levels this month.

Task force

Some member states require a Covid-19 pass to enter certain events and settings, such as football stadiums and indoor restaurants. The bloc’s executive arm explained that talks with non-EU countries were about ensuring that passes are interoperable, and meet technical and security standards.

Negotiations with the US have been ongoing since June when the two sides set up a task force to explore how to resume transatlantic travel. The concept of vaccine passports has been met with significant resistance in the US, especially from Republicans.

The North Atlantic corridor connecting the US with Europe is the single most profitable corner of the global aviation market, filled with premium travellers paying extra for first-class and business-class seats.

The travel route was devastated by the pandemic and carriers on both sides of the Atlantic have lobbied forcefully for a relaxation of border curbs. They have had some relief since late June, when the EU started to open up to travellers from outside countries including the US But the move has not been reciprocated. Airlines have since been bringing back flights, but while Americans can holiday in Greece or Spain, Europeans are unable to go to New York or Miami.

Seat capacity between the US and major European markets including France, Germany and Italy, stands at about 70% of where it was before the start of the pandemic, according to data from flight tracker OAG.

The US last week raised its travel alert on the UK, telling Americans to avoid travelling there because of a surge in infections.

The commission told ambassadors at the meeting last week that it had received requests for mutual vaccine pass recognition from several countries, including North Macedonia, Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Ukraine. It has already reached an agreement with Switzerland and is due to do so soon with the Holy See, San Marino, Andorra and Monaco.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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