Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced to EU member states Friday that vaccine certificates, called “Digital Green Certificates,” would likely be adopted across Europe on March 17.
Once made available, members of the European Union will be given the option to opt in to the certificate, but von der Leyen has stressed that, in order to be effective, all member states would have to be on board.
In her announcement, von der Leyen referenced Greek PM Mitsotakis‘ suggestion of a Europe-wide “vaccination passport” during a virtual meeting on February 24, and stressed the certificate’s potential to “facilitate free movement of persons within the European Union.”
Vaccine certificates will also include Covid-19 test results
The certificates, which would operate at an EU-wide level, will include essential information about “a person’s Covid-19 status,” von der Leyen wrote, particularly whether the person has been fully vaccinated, if they have tested negative for the virus, or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past.
Von der Leyen stressed that, in order for the certificate to be in effect “within the next three months” across the bloc, all EU member states should begin the process of organizing national data regarding vaccinations and coronavirus test results.
Additionally, the EU’s 27 countries would have to have necessary technology to analyze the certificate’s QR code, which will be available digitally on smart phones or on a sheet of paper.
Countries across the EU have proposed the certificates be used for free travel, without coronavirus restrictions such as quarantine, for travelers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Those who have not yet been vaccinated will also be able to travel will have to follow strict anti-virus measures, such as mandatory quarantines.
Others have suggested that the certificates be used for admission to enclosed spaces such as movie theaters and indoor restaurants.
Greece, Cyprus, Spain view “vaccine passport” as key for tourism
European countries whose economies are dependent on tourism, such as Greece, Spain, and Cyprus, have lauded the move, viewing it as a way for the sector to bounce back this summer while keeping their citizens safe.
These Mediterranean countries have already indicated that they are ready to implement the certificate when it is made available.
Greece has already started issuing a digital vaccination certificate in February for citizens who have received both doses of the coronavirus shot.
The certificates feature the vaccinated person’s data, including which shot they received against Covid-19 and when they completed both doses, along with a unique QR code.
Other EU member states, such as France and Germany, have expressed doubts about the “vaccine passport,” arguing that it could be used to discriminate those who access to the shot, or who are unable to safely receive it due to health problems.
Responding to doubts about the certificates, von der Leyen stressed that the certificates should not be discriminatory against those who are unable to receive the vaccine due to health conditions, asserting that the inclusion of negative test results on the certificate will allow members of that group to travel.
Read von der Leyen’s full announcement to the EU here.