EU-wide summer travel expected by mid-June as MEPs strike COVID certificate deal

The European Parliament has struck a deal with member states for a digital COVID certificate to allow travel throughoutthe EU by mid-June

The European Parliament has struck a deal with member states for a digital COVID certificate that will allow for travel throughout the EU by mid-June for people who have been vaccinated, tested negative or who have recovered from the infection

Negotiators for the European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional deal for the institution of an EU digital COVID certificate that will allow for travel within the bloc this summer and beyond.

The certificate - in either digital or paper form – will come in one of three formats: either attesting that a person has either been vaccinated against the Coronavirus, has had a recent negative test result or has recovered from the infection.

The agreement will now be put to the Civil Liberties Committee on 26 May, then to Parliament’s plenary session for approval, as well as to the Council. If confirmed by the committee, it will be tabled for adoption in the EP’s next plenary session, which is being held between 7 and 10 June.

The certificates will be accepted across the bloc without exception, meaning that all EU member states will be obliged to allow entry to anyone holding a certificate.

While some parliamentarians had argued for free COVID-19 tests for the certificate, the eventual deal was instead to make “affordable and accessible testing” more widely available.

In fact Civil Liberties Committee chair and rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES remarked after the deal, “Whilst the agreement reached today does not fully meet the EP’s demands, it certainly signifies a major improvement to the current status quo for millions of EU citizens.

“The EU digital COVID certificate will restore free movement within the EU, as member states start lifting restrictions to free movement across Europe. This agreement is the first step to get the Schengen area back on track.”

In terms of funding for COVID-19 tests, the European Commission will mobilise at least €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument for the purchase of tests for SARS-CoV-2 infection for the test certificates. This should particularly benefit persons who cross borders daily or frequently to go to work or school, visit close relatives, seek medical care, or to take care of loved ones.

It was also agreed that, if necessary, additional funding over and above the original €100 million should be mobilised, subject to approval by the budgetary authorities.

No additional travel restrictions from member states

According to the agreement, member states must not impose any additional COVID-19 related travel restrictions - such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing, “unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health”.

Available scientific evidence, “including epidemiological data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)” should be taken into account in such cases, and any such measures should be notified to other member states and the Commission at the latest 48 hours in advance.

The agreement stipulates that member states must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for people inoculated with a vaccine authorised for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency – currently: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen.

It will be up to the member states, meanwhile, to decide whether they will additionally accept vaccination certificates that have been authorised by other member states following national authorisation procedures or for vaccines listed by the World Health Organisation for emergency use.

The deal also ensures the certificates will be verified to prevent fraud and forgery, as will the authenticity of the electronic seals included in the document. Personal data obtained from the certificates cannot be stored in destination member states and there will be no central database established at EU level. The list of entities that will process and receive data will be public so that citizens can exercise their data protection rights under the General Data Protection Regulation.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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