Last week, Greece and Israel signed a travel agreement that would create a type of “vaccine channel” of travel for those that had received the Covid-19 vaccine in each country. Basically, it would allow free travel for citizens in both countries to go between the countries and not need to be quarantined or tested.
The Greece – Israel Travel Deal Has Problems in the EU
However, that plan is having some pushback within the EU. In January Greece tabled a proposition to the EU to create a type of “vaccine passport” to allow for easier travel throughout the EU bloc for those that had received the Covid-19 vaccine. It was not completely well received with some countries (like France) pushing back on it. It is important to remember that Greece is not requiring the vaccine for travelers but they want to make the entry process more streamlined – and advantageous – for those who have received it.
Now, those same (and other) countries have a problem with Greece making this arrangement with Israel. True, it is a decision that belongs to each country but because Greece is part of the Schengen Zone, it means that when someone enters Greece, they have entered this zone and can move more freely throughout it.
The problem that EU officials have with this Greece – Israel agreement is that it makes an exception for those that enter Greece based on their vaccination status. The current EU entry rules are based on the epidemiological data from countries as to whether travelers are allowed to visit from one country to the EU. At present, there are just a handful of countries on that list and Israel is not on the list.
Cyprus has signed a similar deal with Israel this past weekend and Spain and Portugal are also angling for similar deals. It is really no surprise with this list of countries that are working such deals – Greece, Cyprus, Spain, and Portugal – as all are very popular summer destinations and travelers coming from Israel typically will be spending a good amount of tourist money on these destinations.
Of course, it may be moot in another month or so. This is due to the incredible speed at which Israel has been vaccinating their citizens. The entire country could be vaccinated in the next month or so. If this is the case and it proves resilient against the various mutations of the virus, Israel’s epidemiological data could clear it for EU protocols anyway.