Spain will consider a “green corridor” for vaccinated British tourists if there is no EU agreement on vaccination passports, the country’s tourism minister has said, as the European commission prepared to table a proposal for leaders this month.
Fernando Valdés said his government would seek to find agreement on a common system among the 27 member states to allow tourism to restart, but Madrid would probably open bilateral talks with non-EU countries if that failed.
“Right now we have discussions with our colleagues in the UK,” Valdés told Bloomberg TV. “For us the British market is our main market. But obviously since we are a member of the European Union, the solutions have first to be part of the discussions in the EU.
“And obviously if that cannot be reached, we will be thinking of other corridors like green corridors with third countries that can help us restart tourism flows.”
British tourists spent around £18bn a year in Spain in 2019, making it the most popular holiday destination for UK travellers, but numbers were down by more than 80% in the summer of 2020.
The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed that discussions were under way with governments and the EU. “We are absolutely working with our international partners on the need for certification in terms of having had a vaccine to be able to travel to another country,” he said during a Downing Street press conference.
“If another country wants to say that you need to have been vaccinated with a recognised vaccine to travel there we want to enable Brits to be able to take that journey. So we are working with international partners, and the EU is part of those discussions, as are several other countries around the world, and it’s obviously important work.”
Hancock said it was crucial to ensure the scheme allows people to travel who have been unable to have a jab in time. “As I understand it from the details set out, the EU proposal is that certification includes both whether you’ve had the vaccine and also whether you’ve recently had a test so those who can’t get vaccinated yet, which is particularly important,” he said. “It matters that we get the details of this right for international travel.”
The European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said earlier that she intended to publish draft legislation on 17 March over a “pass” that vaccinated EU citizens could use to travel for work or tourism. Leaders will discuss the issue at a summit eight days later.
“The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the EU or abroad – for work or tourism,” Von der Leyen had told a meeting of German conservative politicians on Monday.
She later tweeted: “The aim is to provide: proof that a person has been vaccinated; results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet; info on Covid-19 recovery. It will respect data protection, security & privacy.”
The move was welcomed by Spain, Portugal and Greece, and a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the UK would be interested in discussing the concept with Brussels. The prime minister has said non-essential international travel could be permitted from 17 May if the infection rates continue to fall.
But the proposal for what Von der Leyen described as a “digital green pass” was described as “confusing” by Belgian’s deputy prime minister, who insisted that free movement was a right for all EU citizens.
Sophie Wilmès, who also acts as Belgium’s foreign minister, tweeted: “The idea of a standardised European system that allows each individual to gather pieces of information about one’s vaccination, Covid tests, etc, on a single digital document (certificate) is a good one.