European Parliament votes to introduce EU Covid-19 passports - with some changes

BRUSSELS - The European parliament has approved its priorities for introducing Covid-19 passports for the EU, also known as Digital Green Certificates, in time for the summer.

The idea behind the Covid passport system is to allow anyone who is fully vaccinated, or who has a negative Covid-19 test, or who has recovered from Covid-19, to travel within the EU by presenting this paper or digital certificate.

The result of the vote, cast yesterday and announced this morning, was 540 votes in favour, 119 against and 31 abstentions.

As part of the vote, the European Parliament aims as part of its priorities to scrap the name ‘Digital Green Certificates’, and instead call them the ‘EU Covid-19 certificate’.

MEPs also agreed that the system should be in place for no longer than 12 months.

MEPs also stress that, in order to avoid discrimination against those not vaccinated and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing”.

The next stage will involve negotiations between the European Parliament, based on these priorities; and the European Council, or the leaders of the 27 EU member states, about how to implement the certificates.

Once officially introduced, Ireland and other EU member states will be obliged to give one of these EU Covid-19 certificates to anyone eligible for one who requests it.

In a plenary hearing yesterday where the issue was debated, some MEPs expressed concerns about EU countries where Covid-19 tests are “prohibitively expensive”, particularly for cross-border workers and students; that the name ‘Digital Green Certificates’ was confusing; that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence for how long immunity after contracting Covid-19 or after being fully vaccinated would last.

“Haste is not a wise counsel,” Italian MEP Piernicola Pedicini said, raising concerns about how the committee stage for the certificate legislation was skipped.

“Is the effect the same for all vaccines? How long are we protected for? We don’t know if member states are going to discriminate through access to services.”

MEPs arguing in favour of the Covid certificates said that they would allow a return to some level of normality; that the system will ensure there aren’t several different systems for travel across the EU; and that it would allow the European economy – tourism in particular – to rebound.

Bulgarian MEP Petar Vitanov said that the proposal should have been introduced last year, when there was a “patchwork” arrangement for travel across the EU.

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus said the certificates are not “a perfect solution, but edges us towards normality”.

“Let’s be very clear though. The Digital Certificate system is not a silver bullet.  This is purely a system to enable a careful reopening of travel in the EU. We must continue to work together following the public health advice to keep each other safe.”

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