Greece, Tourism Havens Under Fire From EU Leaders Over Vaccines

Greece and other southern sunspots came under fire at a European Union summit for letting in tourists who’ve had unauthorized vaccines, with French President Emmanuel Macron insisting member states should be consistent in only recognizing shots approved for use in the bloc.

Speaking after a two-day summit in Brussels, Macron targeted tourist-reliant Greece and other nations without naming them, warning of the need to pick the best vaccines especially against the more contagious delta variant. He said he was “perfectly aligned” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the need for caution, vigilance and European coordination.

“We must all recognize the same vaccines, the ones which have been authorized by the European Medicines Agency,” Macron told reporters. “They are all fully-efficient, we know that, including against the latest variants, and the delta variant. The other vaccines don’t have the same degree of visibility, especially on this latest variant.”

Both Greece and Cyprus have waived quarantine requirements for visitors offering proof of vaccination with Russia’s Sputnik and China’s Sinopharm shots, neither of which has been authorized by EMA.

Opening Up

From July 1, all EU countries will accept visitors from other member states who hold the EU Digital Covid Certificate. It will be issued free of charge in digital or paper format, and certify that holders have been inoculated against the coronavirus, recovered from the illness or tested negative.

Macron said EU governments must ensure proper coordination in coming weeks. “This coordination is also necessary for our rules to be harmonized on opening toward third countries,” said Macron, adding this is key for the EU certificate to be “fully efficient.”

Merkel made clear she remains worried about the situation in Greece and other southern European tourist destinations which allow in tourists from variant risk areas and third countries which use vaccines not approved by EMA. She denied, however, that leaders discussed the possible reintroduction of border controls.

“Border controls have not been under discussion,” Merkel said after the summit. She said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised her that arrivals vaccinated with Sputnik or other vaccines “are being tested more carefully and that there will be more controls.”

Merkel continued: “This is not about the question of whether the delta variant will spread or not. It’s only about the question of how quickly it will spread and how much progress we are making with vaccinations.” Further talks with Greece may be necessary, she added.

Mitsotakis stood his ground, saying after the summit that a majority of fellow-leaders see no need for extra restrictions imposed on those traveling from countries where the delta variant exists.

“There’s no majority within the EU Council to impose extra measures,” Mitsotakis said. Greece is obliged to accept travelers inoculated with vaccines approved by the EU, but also has the right to accept other shots, like Sputnik, he said. “There’s only one way to deal with the delta variant and this is to speed up the vaccination process,” he added.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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