This Wednesday, the European Parliament completed the legislative process on the EU’s digital covid certificate, whose objective is to facilitate travel in the Union and economic recovery. The plenary session approved the new regulations in this regard by 546 votes in favor, 93 in against and 51 abstentions (regarding EU citizens); and 553 votes in favor, 91 against and 46 abstentions (with regard to third country nationals).
The certificate will be issued free of charge by national authorities, will be available in digital or paper format and will include a QR code. It will certify that a person has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, has a recent negative test or has overcome the disease; In practice there will be three different certificates. A common European framework will make certificates interoperable and verifiable throughout the European Union and prevent fraud and forgery. The system will apply from July 1, 2021 and will be in force for twelve months. The certificate will not be an essential requirement to exercise the right to free movement and will not be considered a travel document.
During interinstitutional negotiations, MEPs reached an agreement according to which EU states will not be able to impose additional travel restrictions on certificate holders – such as quarantine, self-isolation or more testing – “unless these measures are proportionate.” and necessary to safeguard public health. Scientific data must be taken into account, “including epidemiological data published by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).” The measures must be notified, as far as possible, 48 hours in advance to the other Member States and the European Commission, and 24 hours in advance to the public.
Affordable and accessible testing
The States of the Union must try to make the tests affordable and easy to obtain. At the request of Parliament, the Commission promised to mobilize €100 million from the Urgent Assistance Instrument so that Member States can purchase tests to issue digital COVID certificates.
All EU countries will be obliged to accept vaccination certificates issued in other Member States for vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Instead, they will be free to decide whether to also accept certificates issued for vaccines authorized under national procedures or for those listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in emergencies.