EU fast-tracks procedure to approve 'vaccination passports' by June

EU fast-tracks procedure to approve 'vaccination passports' by June
Credit: Belga

The European Parliament has launched an accelerated procedure to fast-track the approval of the Digital Green Certificate - commonly known as vaccination passports - for safe travel within the EU before summer.

This week, MEPs supported using the urgency procedure (468 votes in favour, 203 against and 16 abstentions), meaning they can look at the Commission's proposal for the certificate faster - with President Ursula von der Leyen stating it could be adopted by June.

"The certificate cannot be a precondition for free movement as this is a fundamental right in the European Union, and it cannot lead to discrimination against those individuals who do not hold one," Juan Fernando López Aguilar, chair of the civil liberties committee, said after the voting results were announced.

He also highlighted that strong data protection is necessary, for both personal and medical data, adding that "citizen's data must be safe, and only necessary data should be included."

According to the Commission proposal, the certificate would only contain the key information that is necessary to guarantee its “authenticity, integrity and validity.”

This will include the name and date of birth of the holder, the Member State in which the certificate was issued and a unique identifier, as well as the necessary info on whether a traveller has been vaccinated against Covid-19, a Covid-19 test result, and information on recovery from a Covid-19 infection.

Belgian MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere told the Belga news agency that "There is no time to waste if we want to make travel possible by the summer."

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In recent months, the travel pass was pushed by several - mostly southern - Member States whose economy relies heavily on travel and tourism, such as Greece.

Belgium, however, remained more hesitant as Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès stressed that such a certificate should not grant privileges to those who have already been vaccinated when there is no universal access to vaccines yet.

Last week, De Croo said that the authorities will look into how the certificate can be used for people in Belgium, "and whether we can move towards a similar approach for travel to third countries, outside the European Union."

A unified European approach, rather than a dispersed order, would be "good to have," he said, adding that, aside from the privacy aspect, he also wants to make sure that the certificate remains based on scientific insights.

More info on the Commission proposal for the certificate can be found here.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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