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To state the obvious, the international mobility of people and goods has been severely impacted by cross-border restrictions, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, and remains so even at this late date. This has had a devastating effect on international travel and economies the world over.

Reyes Maroto, Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism

Against this backdrop, the Government of Spain, together with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), organized an opportune Safe International Mobility Summit. Held on the beautiful Balearic island of Ibiza on 7 – 8 July 2022, and chaired by Spain’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, the summit’s purpose was to streamline the mechanisms for international coordination so that the pre-pandemic safe mobility levels would be recovered.

The summit was held in touristic Ibiza

In the words of the OECD, the Safe International Mobility Summit, called by OECD as High-Level Meeting on Safe International Travel, was convened “to bring together ministers, deputy ministers, and high-level authorities mainly responsible for the sectors of health, tourism, and foreign affairs, to discuss measures and build consensus to accelerate return to safe international mobility while protecting the safety of travel.”

At the closing ceremony of the summit, Spain’s Minister for Health, Carolina Darias, stressed the importance of international collaboration in restoring pre-pandemic mobility levels while ensuring global health.

Minister of Health Carolina Darias

In her speech, Darias insisted on the importance of meetings such as the recently concluded summit in the course of which two days the representatives of the G20 countries discussed common principles and procedures that would allow progress to be made in the recovery of international mobility. The focus here was the need to protect public health while guaranteeing mobility.

Darias stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed great challenges, especially in terms of mobility, but it has also made it possible to develop international collaboration in the area. There’s the EU Digital COVID Certificate, for instance, to which more than 70 countries have already adhered.

Darias had cautioned, however, that, although the achievements are significant, further coordinated progress must be made in such areas as the interoperability of digital systems or the development of common risk-based technical criteria for use in future pandemics.

Spain is an international benchmark in the administering of vaccines. Spain is a safe and attractive destination

In this connection, she pointed out Spain’s outstanding success in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Spain, she said, is an international benchmark in the administering of vaccines. According to her, this commendable achievement was due to several factors: the EU’s centralized vaccine purchasing strategy, the leadership of the Government of Spain, the hard work of the Spanish regional and municipal governments, the heroic dedication of health professionals, and the exemplary behavior of Spanish citizens.

Additional to the achievement in national vaccination is Spain’s foreign donation of more than 70 million doses. Thirty million more are scheduled, to make a total of 100 million vaccines.

Darias was not shy in claiming that “Spain’s capabilities and excellence in different areas contribute to making us a safe and attractive destination.”

The Health minister concluded her speech by encouraging the participants in the summit to continue working on the search for solutions that would allow them to achieve ever safer mobility.

The OECD, for its part, has observed that “the current health crisis persists, but there is a high probability of an endemic state for COVID-19 in the near future. This calls for more sustainable and resilient international mobility systems to allow for the recovery of travel while preserving public health goals and improving preparedness against future shocks. These measures could serve as the building blocks for a more resilient global health system aimed at responding more efficiently to future health emergencies.”

Why is the recovery of travel important? The OECD says:

“While international travel restrictions have helped delay or reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to some degree, they have caused societal and economic disruption and impacted billions of lives.

The prescription is to return to normality

The variation in travel restrictions that countries introduced has created confusion among travellers, uncertainty for travel and tourism companies, increased the costs of travel, and left loopholes in the system such that border controls are not effective in preventing importation of cases of COVID-19. The resulting economic impact has been profound. Countries with the largest travel and tourism sectors experienced the largest economic impact. In 2020, for each additional percentage point of GDP that travel and tourism contributed to national economies in 2019, their GDP contracted by 0.3%. Two years into the pandemic, and with increasing access to tools for managing COVID-19, accelerating progress towards the resumption of safe international travel is an important step to returning to normality.”

La Moncloa, Gobierno de España


Featured image/HubertRams from Pixabay
Reyes Maroto/Pool Moncloa, La Moncloa Goobierno de España, cropped
Ibiza/Rafael via Flickr, CC BY-SA2.0
Carolina Darias/Fernando Calvo Pool Moncloa, La Moncloa Gobierno de España, cropped
Thumbs-up Spain/Kurious, Pixabay
OECD logo/User:cflm001, PD via Wikimedia Commons
Plane in flight/Samuel’s photos, Unsplash