Since March, European Union has tried to get “Digital Green Certificates” off the ground before the critical summer travel season within the bloc.
The initiative progressed on Thursday when the European Parliament and Council reached a compromise deal that next goes to the other committees before a vote in the parliament. The goal is to have the program up and running by July 1, although individual countries have up to six weeks to adopt it.
Update from the European Parliament:
EP and Council negotiators reached on Thursday a provisional deal for an EU digital Covid certificate to facilitate free movement in Europe during the pandemic.
The certificate will be available in either digital or paper format. It will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or has a recent negative test result or has recovered from the infection. In practice, these will be three distinct certificates. A common EU framework will allow member states to issue certificates that will then be accepted in other EU countries.
The EU digital Covid Certificate regulation should be in place for 12 months. The certificate will not be a precondition to exercise the right to free movement and will not be considered a travel document.
It certainly is not a travel document. Freedom of movement has been non-existent within the bloc for the past 14 months due to all national restrictions. In the future, you will likely need this digital certificate for smoother travel within the EU.
Additional travel restrictions only if duly justified
Member states should not impose additional travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. Such measures should be notified to other member states and the Commission at the latest 48 hours in advance.
Deciding what is justified is left to each member state. The change in entry requirements for EU/EEA citizens and nationals should be communicated at a minimum of 48 hours before implementation.
Member states must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for persons inoculated with a vaccine authorised for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) (currently Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen). It will be up to the member states to decide whether they also accept vaccination certificates that have been authorised by other Member States following national authorisation procedures or for vaccines listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use.
Some European Union countries have used Russian and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines for their population. These have not been approved by EMA (European Medicines Agency), and it is up to member states to decide if they accept Covid-19 passes from travelers who have been inoculated with them.
Here’s an update from the EU Council:
Criteria to lift restrictions for all travellers from a third country
For restrictions on non-essential travel to be lifted for a given third country, under the new rules the number of COVID-19 cases per 100 000 inhabitants over the last 14 days is raised from 25 to 75. The progress in having the population vaccinated against the virus should also be taken into account. At the same time, to respond to the risk posed by new variants, the detection in a country of variants of interest should now be considered together with variants of concern.
Other existing criteria continue to apply, including a stable or decreasing trend of new cases, the number of tests performed, a 4% positivity rate among all tests carried out, the overall response to COVID-19 in the country and the reliability of the available information. Reciprocity should continue to be taken into account on a case by case basis.
The 75 confirmed positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants is used as one criteria, but the test positivity rate, possible virus variants, and vaccination progress are also taken into account.
Lifting of restrictions for vaccinated persons
If member states accept proof of vaccination to waive travel restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they should in principle lift restrictions on non-essential travel for third-country travellers who have received the last recommended dose of an EMA approved vaccine at least 14 days before arrival. Member states could also lift the restriction on non-essential travel to those who have received at least 14 days before the last recommended dose of a vaccine having completed the WHO emergency use listing process.
The keyword here is “in principle.” It is up to each country to decide who they let in.
Where lifting these restrictions, member states should take into account reciprocity on a case by case basis.
Once adopted, the digital green certificate regulation will provide the basis, through a Commission implementing act, for treating third country vaccination certificates equivalent to digital green certificates. Until then, member states should be able to accept third country certificates containing at least a minimum data set, in accordance with national law and taking into account the need to be able to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate.
So, nationals who live in the “safe” countries or who have been vaccinated may not be allowed to travel to the bloc if their country doesn’t offer reciprocity for EU/EEA citizens.
Emergency brake mechanism
Where the epidemiological situation of a third country or region worsens quickly, in particular if a variant of concern or of interest has been detected, member states should adopt an urgent, temporary restriction on all travel into the EU. This emergency brake should not apply to EU citizens, long-term EU residents and certain categories of essential travellers, who should nevertheless be subject to appropriate testing and quarantine measures, even if fully vaccinated.
When a member state applies such restrictions, the member states meting within the Council should urgently review the situation in a coordinated manner and in close cooperation with the Commission. Such restrictions should be reviewed at least every two weeks.
So, there can be sudden changes to who is allowed in, and even EU citizens and residents could be subject to quarantine even when vaccinated.
Readers, who live outside of the bloc, need to understand that this is about as fast as EU countries can agree about anything. It is then up to each member state to implement the policies in the agreed time.
Even when the EU claims that this will open up the travel within the bloc, it doesn’t, as each country can decide who they let it, and the implementation of this Digital Green Pass is left to each member state. Th
While EU claims that member states cannot require you to have this document to travel within the bloc, I feel that it does just that, at least if you choose to fly. It is easy to require airlines to check that you have one, but more challenging at land borders that shouldn’t exist within the Schengen.
It doesn’t mean that you can travel freely but may lead to fewer Covid-19 PCR-RT and antigen tests for fully vaccinated. Considering that there are usually 8 to 12 weeks in between the first and the second jabs, for vaccines that need both, a tiny percentage of EU citizens and residents are considered fully vaccinated during the 2021 summer travel season.
Why should the EU let in visitors from countries that don’t reciprocate? In my opinion, they should not.