On Wednesday, the European Parliament completed the legislative process on the EU digital covid certificate, the objective of which is to facilitate travel within 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 (as regards EU citizens); and 553 votes in favor, 91 against and 46 abstentions (as regards third-country nationals).
The certificate will be issued free of charge by the 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 it will be three different certificates. A common European framework will make certificates interoperable and verifiable throughout the European Union and will prevent fraud and counterfeiting. The system will apply from July 1, 2021 and will be in effect 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 the interinstitutional negotiations, MEPs reached an agreement according to which the States of the Union will not be able to impose additional restrictions on the certificate holders when traveling – such as quarantine, self-isolation or further testing – “unless these measures are proportionate and necessary to safeguard public health ”. Scientific data, ‘including epidemiological data published by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’, should be taken into account. 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 euros from the Urgent Assistance Instrument so that Member States can buy tests to issue digital COVID certificates.
All EU countries will be required to accept vaccination certificates issued in other Member States for vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Instead, they are free to decide whether to also accept certificates issued for vaccines licensed under national procedures or for those listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in emergencies.