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EU Recommends Opening Borders to Israeli Visitors

EU Recommends Opening Borders to Israeli Visitors

Decision aimed at boosting summer tourism to COVID-ravaged continent

The European Council on Thursday announced it had added Israel to the select list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter the 27 EU member states with limited restrictions.

“Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on nonessential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted to add Israel,” the Council’s statement read.

Israel will join Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China as the only countries from which visitors can arrive for leisure purposes.

According to the EU, the criteria to determine who is added to the list of so-called green states include the “epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry welcomed Thursday’s decision, which came “due to concentrated diplomatic efforts by the Israeli mission to the EU and its other embassies across Europe,” according to Jerusalem.

The announcement “paves the way for a gradual return to normalcy after the coronavirus crisis and to economic growth,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement sent to The Media Line.

“I commend the ministry’s emissaries in Europe for their excellent work in bringing about this development,” he continued.

The European Council’s recommendation is not legally binding and does not oblige member states to immediately allow unfettered entrance to citizens of countries on the “green list.”

Each European country will decide for itself, or within bilateral agreements with Jerusalem, what specific limitations to lift and when.

The lifting of the ban on nonessential travel also does not cover specific requirements imposed individually by European governments, such as negative COVID-19 tests, up-to-date PCR checks and possible quarantine for incoming visitors.

The decision nonetheless bodes well for Israeli tourists hoping to reach Europe during the summer school holidays.

Everybody wants to encourage tourism, in Europe and here in Israel. I think we will soon see a ton of Israelis booking flights for the summer, absolutely

“It’s hard to say just yet because it’s still kind of early, but this will probably lead to a rise in travel requests in the coming weeks,” a representative of Ophir Tours, an Israeli travel agency, told The Media Line.

“It was kind of expected anyway, it was only a matter of time. Everybody wants to encourage tourism, in Europe and here in Israel. I think we will soon see a ton of Israelis booking flights for the summer, absolutely.”

Also on Thursday, Israel continued to ease its dwindling list of coronavirus restrictions. All occupancy limits on public transportation were removed, as was the requirement for train tickets to be purchased in advance.

The nation’s world-leading vaccination push has borne fruit, with only a few dozen daily infections reported in recent weeks and a mere 87 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in serious condition, down from a peak of more than 1,200. Over the past week, just seven Israelis died of COVID-19.

More than 5 million, out of a population of 9.3 million, have received the required two Pfizer, or in some cases, Moderna, shots needed to attain 95% efficacy.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Health Ministry extended the expiration of the government-issued Green Pass vaccination certificates, issued to those who received both doses, till the end of 2021.

The certificates’ initial validity was for six months only.

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