NEWS

Greece, Israel to sign agreement on tourism during PM’s visit

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Greece and Israel are expected to sign a bilateral agreement on tourism on Monday during a visit by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Jerusalem, a Greek government spokeswoman said.

Tourism, which accounts for about a fifth of the Greek economy and employs one in five workers, collapsed last year as the coronavirus pandemic gutted revenues to 4 billion euros ($4.81 billion) from 18 billion in 2019.

Mitsotakis, due in Israel on Monday evening, has forecast a strong rebound in tourism this summer, saying speedy vaccination drives in key markets including Israel will pave the way for tourists to return despite the current industry gloom.

Spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni provided no further details on the agreement on tourism, but reiterated that Israel is a significant market for Greece.

“If 70 percent of the population has been vaccinated by end March it will be easier to open up gradually to the Israelis who are interested in travelling to our country,” she said, citing Mitsotakis.

Greece has also created its own standard vaccination certificate and is pushing for a European Union-wide certification system that could be digital.

The EU continues to debate whether certificates should be required for cross-border travel. Critics saying it remains unclear how effective vaccinations will be in halting viral transmission and that such certificates could be discriminatory.

Athens has signalled that it may seek bilateral deals with other countries if an EU-wide certification system is not approved.

“This discussion (on vaccination certificates) has begun and we’ll examine how we can build bridges with countries which have made good progress in vaccinations,” Peloni said. “We hope we will have built satisfactory immunity by this summer.”

[Reuters]