Digital Green Certificate: Agreement reached to introduce EU-wide COVID travel pass

An agreement has been reached to introduce an EU-wide COVID travel pass in time for the summer season.

The certificate, designed to facilitate the free flow of work and tourism across the block, will include information on vaccination, testing and recovery from the disease.

EU citizens will be able to get the pass if they have at least one of the three elements. PCR tests and antigen tests will be admitted.

The European Parliament confirmed on Thursday that an agreement has been reached on the ticket with the 27 EU member states.

Only vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be accepted in the application process, although individual countries are allowed to accept other vaccines if they wish.

To date, the jabs lit green by the EMA are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

It will be up to the Member States to decide whether one or two doses are sufficient to obtain the pass. The European Commission urges countries to find a harmonized approach in this regard to avoid fragmentation. The pass will indicate the brand of vaccine, the date of inoculation and the number of doses.

EU citizens based outside the territory of the Union will also be allowed to obtain the certificate if they have received one of the four vaccines.

The official name of the ticket will be “European digital COVID certificate”, a slight modification of the original “digital green certificate”. It will have a physical and digital version and will work through a QR code.

The interim compromise allocates € 100million in EU funds (and an additional € 100million if needed) to make testing more affordable, while member states pledge to impose travel restrictions on drug holders. passes, such as quarantine, only when necessary to protect public health. .

If the health situation inside a Member State deteriorates according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the national government will have 48 hours to communicate to the European Commission and other Member States its intention to impose extraordinary restrictions on pass holders before they do so.

These exceptional measures must be based on the principles of necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination.

Parliament is expected to validate the deal at the next plenary, with a debate already scheduled for June 9. The text will also have to go through the Council of the EU, where a qualified majority will be required.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday evening, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a socialist MEP who acted as rapporteur for the legislative dossier, said the certificate would be legally binding on all EU countries and could be in place as early as July 1 – provided that national authorities are able to put in place the necessary infrastructure to make it work.

“This is good news that can make a difference this summer compared to the nightmare of 2020,” said López Aguilar.

The COVID certificate will not be a prerequisite for free movement or a substitute for a real passport. The system will remain in place for one year.

The European Commission presented the proposal in mid-March and since then negotiations have proceeded at record speed between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, which brings together representatives from all Member States. A provisional agreement between the two institutions was needed to move the discussions forward in practice.

López Aguilar made no secret of his exhaustion on Thursday and repeatedly criticized member states for their “absolute lack of will” during “painful” and “very stressful” negotiations. According to the socialist MEP, the Council has resisted initial attempts by lawmakers to make PCR testing free and lift all travel restrictions for pass holders.

“We did not get everything we wanted,” admitted the Spanish MEP. “The Council was extremely reluctant to concede, I have never seen anything like it.”

It was only after four rounds of talks, some of which extended beyond midnight, that Member States agreed to give up ground and finally accepted the 100 million euros in EU funds for testing and the conditional lifting of the restrictions.

Although primarily aimed at cross-border movements, the regulation opens the door for governments to use the EU laissez-passer for national purposes.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, who currently holds the rotating Council Presidency, took to Twitter to celebrate the provisional deal.

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