Failure to adopt EU rules on international travel this summer would leave Ireland “very much isolated” in Europe, according to a Fianna Fáil MEP.
The European Commission has called on member states to allow people to travel freely into the bloc as soon as they are fully vaccinated.
People travelling from countries with a “good epidemiological situation” would also be permitted entry – and the commission is calling for a higher daily case threshold to determine whether countries should be included on the entry list.
The new system would have an "emergency brake" mechanism that would allow countries to swiftly re-impose restrictions on any country should coronavirus variants emerge.
The proposal will be discussed at EU level this week.
Ireland will take part in the talks but is not bound by their outcome as it is not part of the Schengen travel area.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher said Ireland should opt-in to the new rules now to ensure we are not left behind later in the summer.
“There is very positive news coming through from countries that have good vaccination rates,” he said. “If you look at Israel for example, they had 13 cases yesterday.
“So, there is a phenomenal achievement in terms of rolling out of vaccines and the dropping of COVID-19 infection rates.
“We have to be very positive and hopeful that towards the middle of the summer, things will be very, very different in Europe.
“We can have these discussions now and put in place in the measures and if the situation improves in terms of the public health measures and the epidemiological measures, well then we can open up.
“If there are still public health challenges, we can keep our borders closed but I think we should opt in to be ready to take advantage of the potential upswing that may come very quickly in terms of the vaccine rollout.”
Asked whether Irish people will be able to holiday abroad late this summer he said: “That is what the EU is saying.
“If we stay out, that would mean we would be very much isolated in terms of access to Europe,” he said.
“I think we should opt-in. I think we should engage very positively and if the public health situation improves in Ireland and in the EU, well then you can open up more quickly rather than having all these discussions after the possibility of opening up.
“Prepare for this. It is an opportunity and at the same time it does still allow the Government to close borders or put in restrictions in place in the event of there being public health concerns.”
Meanwhile, plans for a so-called digital green cert to facilitate travel between EU countries have now been passed by the European Parliament.
The digital pass would show whether someone's been fully vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the virus.
Over the weekend, travel expert Eoghan Corry said a 'nervous' Irish Government was likely to be slower to introduce the travel cert than other European countries.
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