Parliament and Council reach an agreement on EU Digital COVID Certificate

Following highly contentious talks between the 27 members of the European Union, the Commission hailed on May 20 a provisional political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on the regulation of an ‘EU Digital COVID Certificate’, which will, according to those involved in the talks, be key to restoring easy and safe travel across the bloc.

The exact details as to which of the most controversial parts of the agreement have been kept or dropped from the final text remain unknown, but an announcement that a finalized draft had been agreed upon by the members of the EU left Brussels and the rest of the European institutions in a demonstratively self-congratulatory mood after having spent the last several months being widely, and justifiably, criticized for the bungling of the vaccination rollout; an example of sheer incompetence that has left most of the EU’s members far behind other countries in the race to vaccinate the majority of their populations.

The certificate (previously called the Digital Green Certificate) is well on track to be ready end of June, as planned, the Commission said. The agreement on May 20 has been reached in record time just two months after the Commission’s proposal. The negotiations on the certificate for the Commission have been led by Commissioner Didier Reynders in close cooperation with Vice-Presidents Vera Jourova and Margaritis Schinas and Commissioners Thierry Breton, Stella Kyriakides, and Ylva Johansson.

“White smoke: we have a deal on the Commission’s proposal for the EU Digital Covid Certificate,” Reynders wrote in a tweet. “I welcome today’s provisional agreement, (which was) reached by the European Parliament and EU Council. We delivered on this new tool in record time to safeguard free movement for all (European) citizens,” he added while making reference to the ceremonial white smoke that appears following the highly secretive gathering of cardinals in the Vatican – a Papal conclave – to elect a new pope.

Welcoming this swift progress, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU Digital COVID Certificate will be up and running before the summer. “European citizens are looking forward to traveling again, and today’s agreement means they will be able to do so, safely, (and) very soon. The EU Digital COVID Certificate is free of charge, secure and accessible to all. It will cover vaccination, test and recovery offering different options to the citizens. It fully respects citizens’ fundamental rights, including protection of personal data,” she added while stressing that all citizens of the bloc have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU.

“The EU Digital COVID Certificate, available in paper or digital format, will make it easier for Europeans to travel – whether to see their families and loved ones or to get some well-deserved rest. We would like to thank the European Parliament and the Portuguese Presidency for their dedication, perseverance and immense work at record speed to find an agreement on the proposal we presented,” the Commission President said. “Work still remains. At EU level, the system will be ready in the next few days. It is now crucial that all Member States press ahead with the roll-out of their national systems to ensure that the system can be up and running as soon as possible. This is what EU citizens rightly expect. Today’s agreement has demonstrated that with the commitment and cooperation of all, the EU Digital COVID Certificate will be available on time.”

Following the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council, the EU Digital COVID Certificate will cover vaccination, test and recovery, will be available in a digital and paper-based format, depending on the choice of the recipients, and contain a digitally signed QR code. It will also be free of charge and available to those vaccinated before the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation entered into force.

Any of the members of the EU may also use the certificates for national purposes if provided by the laws of the individual national governments. Furthermore, each should not impose imposing additional travel restrictions on a holder of the EU Digital COVID Certificate unless they are needed to safeguard public health.

The European Commission will also mobilize €100 million to support Member States in providing affordable tests.

The political agreement will now have to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. The Regulation will enter into force on July 1, with a phasing-in period of six weeks for the issuance of certificates for those Member States that need additional time.

In parallel, the Commission said it will continue to support the Member States in finalising their national solutions for the issuance and verification of EU Digital COVID Certificate, and to provide technical and financial support to Member States to on-board the gateway.

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