A digital vaccine certificate to open up EU countries to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic should be available by summer, the European Commission announced on Wednesday.
With such proof of vaccination, or “digital green certificate” as the commission calls it, a person vaccinated in one member state would also be recognized as immunized in another. This could facilitate travel – also for tourism purposes – between the countries.
“With this digital certificate, we aim to help Member States reinstate the freedom of movement in a safe, responsible and trusted manner,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said when presenting the proposal.
The much-debated certificate would indicate whether a person has tested negative for the virus, recently recovered from Covid-19, or been vaccinated.
The vaccine certificate could provide the basis for waiving quarantine requirements, for example. However, it remains up to the member states to decide what kind of perks such vaccine certificate could bring.
The certificate should be free of charge, according to the proposal. Its authenticity would be verified with a QR code. Despite its name, it could be used both digitally and in paper-form.
Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas told German news outlet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that it should be ready within months.
“The certificate should be ready for use by the beginning of summer,” he said in an interview published on Wednesday. “And summer begins on June 1.”
But whether this proposal will become reality is unclear, with EU countries and the European Parliament still having to agree to the plans.
Some countries have previously voiced their concerns over such plans. Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmes, for example, said her country would not link people’s vaccine status to freedom of movement to other EU countries, citing discrimination concerns as the majority of citizens have not received the jab yet.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton said almost 70 million vaccine doses have been delivered so far across the bloc, of which more than 50 million had been administered.
This translates into just over 8 per cent of the bloc’s population having received at least one shot of the vaccine, according to data platform Our World in Data.
Countering criticism of potential discrimination, the commission said certificates would not be a precondition for travel in the bloc, or impose additional restrictions. Instead, it should only make travel between countries easier.
Aside from potential discrimination, some governments take issue at the commission envisaging this travel certificate as taking the form of a legislative act instead of a non-binding recommendation – they view this as the EU executive overstepping its boundaries.
And even if approved, it might be much longer until the certificate could actually be used by the general population to, for example, go on holidays, as national authorities would still have to implement it.
Austria – which has been one of the most vocal critics of the bloc’s vaccine strategy – on Wednesday said it would gradually introduce a coronavirus vaccine certificate from April.
The legal groundwork was being laid, and the first step would be digitizing the negative coronavirus tests, the country’s health minister Rudolf Anschober said.