European Parliament Demands Safeguards For EU COVID-19 Certificates
The European Parliament is calling for citizens of the European Union to have access to free coronavirus tests as part of the introduction of the so-called “EU Covid-19 certificates”, intended to make it easier for people to travel across borders, ruling out quarantines and other restrictions. Photo Credit: Freepik / Illustrative Photo.
Czech Rep., Apr 30 (BD) – On Thursday, the European Parliament (EP) adopted its negotiating position on the introduction of Covid-19 certificates proposed by the European Commission, following a request from several – especially Southern – European states, to reaffirm the right to free movement in Europe during the pandemic.
According to the EP, holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as quarantines, self-isolation, or testing. MEPs also stress that to avoid discrimination against those who are not vaccinated or for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing”.
The parliament wants to ensure that the EU certificate works alongside any initiative set up by the member states, which should also respect the same common legal framework. Member states, thus, must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines authorized for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) (currently Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson), say MEPs. It would be up to the member states to decide whether they also accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use.
Most MEPs agreed that the certificates should be as simple as possible, without unnecessary bureaucracy and unwanted personal data. The document, which may be in digital or paper format, should contain only basic human identification and data on the vaccine, test, or illness.
However, EU COVID-19 certificates should neither serve as travel documents nor become a precondition to exercise the right to free movement, say MEPs. They should be used for a maximum of one year and exclusively to facilitate travel, not, for example, to enter sporting or cultural events.
“The certificate is a ticket back to normal, which will help not only tourism but also all those who travel around the EU for work, including commuters. It will make life significantly easier for companies doing business in Europe and bring them back into play”, commented Czech MEP Martina Dlabajová (ANO/Renew Europe).
The EP also said that certificates should be verified to prevent fraud and forgery, as well as the authenticity of the electronic authorizations included in the document. Personal data obtained from the certificates should not be stored in destination member states and there should be no central database established at the EU level. The list of entities processing and receiving data would be public so that citizens can exercise their data protection rights under the General Data Protection Regulation.
The legislative proposal covering EU nationals was approved with 540 votes and 31 abstentions, while another on third-country nationals passed with 540 votes and 70 abstentions.
The vote took place on Wednesday, with results announced on Thursday morning. The EP will now discuss its proposals for the certificates with the Portuguese EU Presidency, which represents the Member States. The aim is to reach an agreement before the beginning of the summer.
“We need to put in place the EU COVID-19 Certificate to re-establish people’s confidence in Schengen as we continue to fight against the pandemic. Member states must coordinate their response safely and ensure the free movement of citizens within the EU. Vaccines and tests must be accessible and free for all citizens. Member states should not introduce further restrictions once the certificate is in force,” said Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar (PSOE/S&D), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur for the proposal, following the plenary vote.