Common approach to travel measures: key areas

To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Council adopted a revised recommendation on measures affecting free movement on 25 January 2022. This agreement follows the Commission’s proposal of 25 November 2021. You can find questions and answers on the Commission’s proposal here.

This recommendation responds to the significant increase in vaccine uptake and the rapid roll-out of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, and replaces the previously existing recommendation. It will enter into force on 1 February 2022, on the same day as a delegated act amending the digital COVID-19 certificate regulation and providing for an acceptance period of 270 days for vaccination certificates.

More information is available in this factsheet

Person-based approach

Travellers in possession of a valid EU digital COVID Certificate should not be subject to additional restrictions to free movement.

A valid EU Digital COVID Certificate includes:

  • A vaccination certificate for a vaccine approved at European level for which at least 14 days and no more than 270 days have passed since the last dose of the primary vaccination series or for which the person has received a booster dose. EU countries could also accept vaccination certificates for vaccines approved by national authorities or the WHO.
  • A negative PCR test result obtained no more than 72 hours before travel or a negative rapid antigen test obtained no more than 24 hours before travel
  • A certificate of recovery indicating that no more than 180 days have passed since the date of the first positive test result.

Persons who are not in possession of an EU Digital COVID Certificate could be required to undergo a test prior to or no later than 24 hours after arrival. Travellers with an essential function or need, cross-border commuters and children under 12 should be exempt from this requirement.


Map of EU regions

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) should continue to publish a map of Member States’ regions indicating the potential risk of infection according to a traffic light system (green, orange, red, dark red). The map should be based on the 14-day case notification rate, vaccine uptake and testing rate.

Based on this map, EU countries should apply measures regarding travel to and from dark red areas, where the virus is circulating at very high levels. They should in particular discourage all non-essential travel and require persons arriving from those areas who are not in possession of a vaccination or recovery certificate to undergo a test prior to departure and to quarantine after arrival.

Certain exceptions to these measures should apply to travellers with an essential function or need, cross-border commuters and children under the age of 12.

Emergency brake

Under the new recommendation, the emergency brake to respond to the emergence of new variants of concern or interest is strengthened. When a member state imposes restrictions in response to the emergence of a new variant, the Council, in close cooperation with the Commission and supported by the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control), should review the situation. The Commission, based on the regular assessment of new evidence on variants, may also suggest a discussion within the Council.

During the discussion, the Commission could propose that the Council agree on a coordinated approach regarding travel from the areas concerned. Any situation resulting in the adoption of measures should be reviewed regularly.

Lifting restrictions

EU Member States adopted a Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Recommendation sets out 4 key areas where EU countries will coordinate their efforts:

  • a common mapping system based on a colour code (green, orange, red, grey)
  • common criteria for Member States when deciding whether to introduce travel restrictions
  • more clarity on the measures applied to travellers from higher-risk areas (testing and self-quarantine)
  • providing clear and timely information to the public

The Commission calls on Member States to fully implement the Recommendation. 

On 25 January 2021, the Commission proposed an update to the Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel measures. It proposed to add ‘dark red’ to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s mapping of high-risk areas.

The Commission proposed further recommendations on a coordinated approach to lifting coronavirus measures in a communication on 17 March 2021. It points to what needs to be done so that we can recover our European way of life, and do so in a safe and sustainable way with control over the virus.

Common passenger locator form and data protection

Data exchange between Member States' contact tracing authorities can be particularly important when travellers are crossing borders in close proximity to each other, such as in airplanes or trains. Digital Passenger Locator Forms can be used by Member States to collect data from cross-border travellers entering their territory. In order for Member States to exchange relevant data through the exchange platform developed by the Commission and EASA, the Commission published draft measures on 17 March 2021 which establish the necessary legal conditions for processing such personal data. These measures should be adopted by the time of the summer holiday season.


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