The Commission proposes to create “digital green passports” to facilitate the free movement of citizens in the EU Covid-19

The European Commission intends to present a legislative proposal as early as March 17th to expand the scope of vaccination certificates against Covid-19, which can function as “digital green passports” until the summer, guaranteeing freedom of movement within the European Union and ultimately in Third countries.

The “novelty” was announced by the President of the European Commission without further explanation in a Twitter message in German at the end of a closed meeting with the members of the European Parliament elected by the CDU and CSU this Monday.

“Our goal is to make life easier for Europeans. With the digital Green Pass, citizens can move around, work or do tourism safely within the European Union and abroad, ”wrote Ursula von der Leyen.

The Commission has not provided any further clarification or details on the proposal that has been prepared at technical level: it is just a digital document with all the safeguards for security, data protection and privacy to facilitate and streamline border procedures.

“We cannot go into further detail, it will be necessary to wait,” repeated several executive spokesmen, who stressed that the legislative text presented by the Commission concerns free movement, which is a European competence and which has nothing to do with restrictive measures decided by each Member State in connection with the fight against the pandemic.

“We are talking about a document to facilitate free movement and cross-border movement. The problems related to the use of certificates in the national context and in each country are a different matter, ”said the Commission spokesman.

In other words, it is not yet clear whether the “digital passport” is intended solely to avoid the current cacophony of requirements for crossing borders and traffic between zones of different colors on the epidemiological risk map, or whether it will also allow travelers People who have already been immunized against Covid-19 are exempt from complying with restrictive measures such as quarantines upon arrival at their destination.

This was the idea of ​​the “vaccination pass” originally submitted by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which was enthusiastically received by the member states whose economies, like Portugal, are more dependent on tourism, but has earned several criticisms from other executives and also from the repairs European Commission.

Countries like Greece, Cyprus or Austria have not waited for a consensus of 27 and have already moved in that direction, signing bilateral agreements with Israel, which can also be repeated with the UK. The Vice-President of the Commission with the portfolio promoting the European way of life, Margaritis Schinas, advised against this approach and defended the “concept of a European product”.

Despite emphasizing that this is not the right time to encourage “non-essential displacement” within the EU, Schinas said the aim of the Commission’s proposal is to “lift restrictions” in order to “facilitate mobility ”But“ to avoid discrimination ”of EU citizens.

For this reason, as the Heads of State and Government had already agreed at last week’s video conference of the European Council, the digital Green Pass should confirm that the person proposing a trip does not pose a risk to public health. because she received the vaccine a negative result in a PCR test or developed antibodies because he had Covid-19.

Health Minister Marta Temido, who chaired the informal meeting of the EU Council this Monday, at which the matter was discussed again, stressed the importance of creating a mechanism “with a name that is understandable for all countries is “, which is a common basis for citizens’ movements in security. “It will be another tool to help bring about a gradual return to normal,” he mused.

A similar conclusion came from the informal meeting of EU tourism officials, for which “building consumer confidence for reopening and restoring” the sector also includes “creating tools such as a health certificate or application” for travelers who contain common criteria and requirements ”.

Last week, Ursula von der Leyen curbed the expectations of European heads of state and government regarding the possible entry into force of such an instrument and estimated that building the infrastructure for the interoperability of the system would take “at least three months”. “It is important to say that it will take some time, at least three months, before expectations are too high too soon.”

In addition to the technical and operational issues of the system, the President of the Commission pointed out the need to answer scientific questions and overcome political reservations before closing the model for the use of vaccination certificates or digital green passports.

Scientific doubts will hardly be resolved before the next European summit on March 25th and 26th (when the heads of state and government are due to examine the Commission’s proposal), as studies on the duration of immunity guaranteed by the vaccine or whether vaccinated people can or possibly do so not transmitted The virus occurs in real time.

From a political point of view, there is a bigger dilemma to be solved, as shown by the immediate reaction of Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, who wrote on Twitter after the Commission President’s announcement that it was a bad idea to “link free movement in Europe” to own a digital certificate. “Compliance with the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever, as vaccination against Covid is not mandatory and access to the vaccine is not widespread,” he recalls.

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