The EU set out its plans on Wednesday to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate safer travel and movement with the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The certificates will serve to provide proof that the person has been vaccinated, has received a negative test, or has previously recovered from the COVID-19 virus.
The European Commission said, “Being vaccinated will not be a precondition to travel. All EU citizens have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU and this applies regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. The Digital Green Certificate will make it easier to exercise that right, also through testing and recovery certificates.”
The green certificates will be free of charge and will come in either digital or paper format and will include a QR code which will help authorities to easily process and authenticate travellers.
European countries are keen to get a working solution in place with the summer holiday period fast approaching. Spain will be especially eager to see a return of tourists after it experienced a drop of over 80% in 2020 compared to previous years.
The proposals which were set out on Wednesday would permit the European Union’s 450 million citizens, whether vaccinated or not, to freely travel with the 27 member states by the summer.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “With the Digital Green Certificate, we are taking a European approach to ensure EU citizens and their family members can travel safely and with minimum restrictions this summer. The Digital Green Certificate will not be a pre-condition to free movement and it will not discriminate in any way. A common EU-approach will not only help us to gradually restore free movement within the EU and avoid fragmentation. It is also a chance to influence global standards and lead by example based on our European values like data protection.”
Countries such as Spain and Greece who are heavily dependent on their tourism industries have been pushing the EU for a solution, however, despite recent discussions over the past few weeks, a viable solution has not been forthcoming until now.
Several member states including France have argued that the new green certificate approach could be premature and even discriminatory given that a large number of EU residents are still yet to be vaccinated against the virus due to delays in delivery and production of the vaccines.
However, in an attempt to prevent discrimination, the EU said that all European citizens including those who have not been vaccinated will be able to take advantage of the new certificate system.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová said: “The Digital Green Certificate offers an EU-wide solution to ensure that EU citizens benefit from a harmonised digital tool to support free movement in the EU. This is a good message in support of recovery. Our key objectives are to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection. And we continue working towards international convergence with other partners.”
The Commission proposes to create not only an interoperable vaccination certificate but also COVID-19 test certificates and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19.
Recent data compiled by the European Centre for Disease Control suggests that only 5% of the EU citizens have received their first vaccine dose.
The EU said that the new Digital Green Certificate system would only be a temporary measure and would be suspended once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the COVID-19 international health emergency.
Image Credit: European Union