Von der Leyen: Green passes to boost tourism ‘on track’ for June

Commission president aims for political deal by the end of this month.

Von der Leyen: Green passes to boost tourism ‘on track’ for June

The EU might just be able to help you get a holiday this summer.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday the bloc is “on track” to have its system of green passes in place by June.

EU officials hope the scheme will boost tourism as the coronavirus pandemic eases by offering a standard certificate verifying travelers’ jabs, tests or past infections.

The legal and technical work on the green certificate “is on track for the system to be operational in June,” von der Leyen said at a summit of EU leaders in the Portuguese city of Porto.

As for securing a deal among EU politicians on the passes, von der Leyen said that “we can realistically aim to have a political agreement by the end of this month.”

That target looks ambitious, as talks between the European Parliament and Council of the EU are far from straightforward. Parliament insists the certificates should be used to drop further restrictions such as quarantines — a tough sell in the Council, as EU countries warn they must keep their options open in case new health threats emerge. Parliament also called for free coronavirus testing as part of any deal.

Negotiators from the Council and the Parliament launched talks on the passes earlier this week, and a second meeting is due next week.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, whose economy relies heavily on tourism, told POLITICO in Porto that there was a “general consensus” that the talks should be accelerated. But he conceded that it’s “difficult to be confident in the timeframe” of the negotiations.

The EU is aiming for the framework to enter into effect by June 21, but that’s “not a promise,” according to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “It’s a target date, depending on how the European debate goes,” he said. EU leaders will discuss the passes again at a meeting on May 25.

Several countries, including Austria, have already taken matters into their own hands with the launch of a national pass. If there’s no EU-wide progress, countries could cut bilateral deals, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. But he added that even countries that had aired concerns about the scheme were under pressure to restart travel.

“There aren’t just politicians in the world, thank God, there’s the population, and the population … is impatient: People want to travel again, they want to have the possibility of going on holiday again,” he said.

David M. Herszenhorn in Porto contributed reporting.