ATHENS – With the European Union under fire for a debacle in being unable to get pharmaceutical companies to deliver enough COVID-19 vaccines to its 27 member states, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis again has urged use of a vaccination certificate to speed tourism and protect people.
In an interview with the Bloomberg financial news agency he said that, “We need to move forward to make sure that as new vaccines are approved, this approval will happen very very quickly and that we will not run behind other countries.”
He had wanted the certificates mandatory for any foreign visitors but after it was said that could keep many from coming to Greece he modified the idea to have those with proof of shots to have fast lanes at airports to avoid testing and quarantines.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen faced for the slow pace of the vaccine rollout from the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca gave priority to the UK after its departure from the bloc.
“We have the capacity to administer many more vaccines than we are currently administering and we have the infrastructure in place,” he said. “It’s simply a question of getting our hands on the vaccines and this is at the end of the day a European decision,” he suggested should not be the bloc’s alone.
He pushed fellow EU leaders to establish a common vaccination certificate to encourage visitors this summer. “I see a lot of EU member states having an interest to explore this idea further,” Mitsotakis said although EU officials haven’t.
Some countries are turning to side deals, with Greece and Cyprus making agreements with Israel for travelers between their countries who can prove they’ve been inoculated.
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper quoted a European Commission official as saying that member-states have already agreed to the rules for travel from third countries, “which do not include privileges for people who have been vaccinated.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ proposal at the start of the year for a “vaccination passport” was not accepted by the EU even though he modified it to recommend fast lanes at airports for people with vaccination certificates so they could avoid testing and possible quarantines.
EU officials, under fierce criticism for ineptitude and being unable to deliver enough doses to countries, especially those such as Greece and Cyprus that depend on tourism, said arrivals from a third country will only be allowed into the bloc when the epidemiological data of that country permit it.
Spain and Portugal are also calling for COVID-19 vaccine certificates to speed the prospects of getting visitors with the spring and summer seasons critical those those countries as well and Hungary is moving toward getting the Russian Sputnik vaccine, ignoring the EU.