Position paper on the Challenge of the Covid-19 Pandemic for European Diasporas inside and outside the EU
The Covid Pandemic puts human lives in danger and stretches health care systems to their limits all over the world. It is therefore important to find the right tools to alleviate this and – in respect of the principle of proportionality – progressively target such measures better as we experience and learn along the way.
The consequences of Covid 19 and the challenges for citizens living and working in other countries than their own are exceptionally dire, and ETTW finds it important to be able to give coherent answers to the many questions, asked by expatriates in the present precarious situation:
1) ETTW supports any proportional temporary measures which can ensure physical distancing, sanitary standards and mass testing to help detect and detain Covid 19 outbreaks in a targeted way.
2) When setting out measures to contain Covid 19, it should be borne in mind that travelling is not a luxury, but rather a fundamental need for certain groups such as mobile EU citizens. This may relate for instance to family reconciliation or cross border work. National border closures do not seem, in principle, to be a proportionate and effective solution, except where there are specific high risks identified in a particular area.
3) Travel restrictions, if any such are deemed useful, should be temporary and they should only be applied to specific (very) high risk areas; this principle should also be respected as far as states and regions within countries are concerned.
4) If prior testing is established as a condition for being allowed to travel, alternate measures should exist allowing a person who has not been able to receive a test the possibility of self isolation and/or in-country testing. This refers in particular to the right of a citizen to return to his/her country of citizenship, which is an internationally recognized fundamental right.
5) Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and we encourage all to make use of this to enable us to walk out of the current difficult situation together.
Mobile Europeans and their family members within the EU should have access to vaccination in their country of residence, where they are covered by the EU social security arrangements. This should be done in accordance with the current calendar and order of precedence. Diplomats, consular staff and officials of international organizations should be included in the vaccination programme in the countries where they based. If, due to the pandemic or for other objective reasons, the person is for a period settled in his or her country of citizenship, he or she should have access to vaccination there, with expenses covered by the country of permanent residence.
6) National governments’ health services should communicate clearly how and where their diasporas outside the EU can be vaccinated.
7) There should be a general recognition at European level of vaccinations done in different Member States and countries outside the EU. And information should be shared about the status of other vaccines – developed in for instance Russia or China – in relation to vaccines approved and used within the EU. It should be made clear if and when these vaccines are considered valid and accepted in EU member states and whether vaccinated expats coming home from such third countries will be required to be revaccinated.
8) But so-called vaccination passports should not, at least at this stage, become travel documents or laissez-passers for social life, until there is proof that vaccination prevents putting others at risk, and until most people in the EU have had access to vaccination. So far, it is available to very few and on different conditions across the EU. Vaccination certificates should not be used to disqualify or discriminate citizens who have not (yet) been vaccinated. And it should be borne in mind that Covid vaccination has an effect on those vaccinated but does not stop the transmission of the virus to others.
February 12, 2021
Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’