The European Parliament voted in favour of the EU digital COVID certificate on Tuesday (8 June), bringing the EU one step closer to finalising the initiative due to come into force on 1 July and facilitate travel across the bloc.
The text still needs to be formally adopted by the 27 member states in the Council, signed into law and published in the EU’s Official Journal. It will be in place for 12 months.
Before the voting, Parliament’s rapporteur, Spanish lawmaker Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said that parliament’s green light to the EU digital COVID certificate will “give the final impetus” for it to come into force on 1 July.
The certificate, which will either come in the form of a QR code on a mobile phone or on paper, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus, has had a recent negative test result or has recovered from infection.
This will let authorities determine the status of a visitor based on records in their home EU country.
The certificate will be issued by all the member states and will have to be accepted across Europe. It is conceived as an attempt to restore the freedom of movement after the pandemic-related restrictions, boost the economy and save the holiday season.
On 17 March, the Commission proposed a legislative text establishing a common framework for an EU certificate. The political compromise between EU institutions was reached in urgent procedure on 20 May.
“We’re talking about record speed, at the end of May we clinched a deal,” the Spanish rapporteur said.
The compromise allows member states to adopt additional travel restrictions such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing, if necessary, to safeguard public health. Aguilar said Parliament is satisfied with the principles of proportionality and necessity when it comes to the member states adopting any additional restrictions.
Such measures should be notified to other member states and the Commission at least 48 hours in advance. They must also be communicated to citizens, in a clear and user-friendly way, at least 24 hours in advance.
“So the restrictions have to be clear, and member states have to justify why and they have to also explain the scope,” said Aguilar.
Test price remains open
The price of tests is an important question that has plagued the interinstitutional debate throughout the whole process, with the Parliament pushing for free testing.
During the debate in the parliament, the EU’s Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said that “new evolutions in the next weeks about the affordability of the test in the different member states” should be seen.
To ensure the affordability of tests for all citizens and, in particular, people who cross borders on a daily basis, the Commission is committed to mobilising an additional amount of €100 million for tests that qualify for the assurance of EU digital COVID test certificate.
“We really have to want to implement this right of free movement, but we’ll be doing it through tests as well, PCR tests, but also rapid antigen tests that are higher quality and that are very affordable. So it can be provided at low cost,” Reynders said, stressing that the Commission aims to avoid discrimination.
Now it is on the member states
Aguilar urged EU countries to ensure that they are ready for the implementation.
“Now it’s the member states that have to effectively implement the certificate and set up the technological infrastructure,” he said.
The Commission is also encouraging member states to already start issuing certificates. Reynders said it is important to start early and solve any potential issues now.
“The more certificates we can already issue, the easier the process will be during the summer,“ he said.
The technological development of the initiative has been progressing in parallel with the political negotiations.
On 1 June, the go-live of the technical system at the EU level was followed by seven member states that started rolling out their certificates. A further six countries have passed all the necessary checks, and are now waiting to go live.
“We are working hard to ensure a smooth rollout on the first of July,” Commissioner Reynders said, adding that so far, the technical rollout was going well.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]