The European Union on Thursday added Israel to the list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to visit for leisure, as Europe seeks to revive travel and salvage summer tourism from tough COVID-19 restrictions.
Reopening to Israeli tourists comes as the EU is moving to ease its current blanket ban on non-essential travel from foreign countries, with only a handful of exceptions, including New Zealand and Australia. Travelers would still be subjected to tests or quarantine regardless of their vaccination status.
New proposals from the European Commission tabled on Monday, pending the approval of the continental bloc's 27 member states, would allow in fully vaccinated foreign citizens and those from countries with a "good epidemiological situation".
"Time to revive tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle - safely," commission president Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.
According to data provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Travelers from Britain, Russia and a host of other countries meet the new criteria while U.S. citizens would not.
"We want to have this done before the mass summer travel starts," an EU official said.
EU member states began discussing the proposal on Tuesday and the official hoped it would be approved this month.
COVID-19 travel restrictions have inflicted heavy losses on the tourism industry in the EU, which at times has struggled to agree on a common response to the pandemic.
If the new proposals receive the go-ahead, each EU member state would be expected — but not legally obliged — to follow the new joint approach. Greece has already agreed to welcome vaccinated tourists from Israel.
The EU is also mulling establishing a central register, allowing free travel for the bloc’s citizens who either hold a so-called “green certificate” — which proves they have been vaccinated, present a negative COVID-19 test, or have recovered from the virus.
The commission recommended allowing people fully inoculated with EU-recognized vaccines to be able to enter from any country, and said other vaccines could be added if they are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The European Medicines Agency has authorized the use of shots by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca in the EU.
The WHO has also approved those vaccines for use and is expected to decide on the use of two Chinese vaccines this week. Both agencies are considering Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine.
To limit the risk of importing new coronavirus variants, the commission also proposed a new "emergency brake" that would allow the swift introduction of travel restrictions from countries where the health situation deteriorates sharply.
EU countries would review the situation every two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday that it will be extending the validity of the "Green Pass" for those who are either vaccinated against or who have recovered from coronavirus until December 2021.