The Parliament of the European Union announced on Thursday that lawmakers have reached an agreement on the proposal for developing a COVID 19 vaccine certificate ahead of the summer travel season.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, tweeted that now negotiations must start with the European Council’s presidency.
“The European Parliament decision on adopting its position on a Digital Green Certificate is a key step towards free and safe travel this summer,” said von der Leyen on Twitter.
She pledged to have an EU gateway for this program running by June and to support member states’ own national systems.
It was reported that on Wednesday the proposal was approved by 540 MEPs in favor but 119 voted against and another 31 abstained. The new EU vaccination certificate will replace the earlier “Green” certificate that was proposed by the Greek government.
Under this proposal, vaccine certificate holders would be exempt from quarantines, self-isolation or on arrival testing in member states. To prevent those who are unvaccinated from being singled out, lawmakers called for the EU to ensure “universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing.”
As member states grappled with different COVID 19 situations within their borders, they came up with individual measures to fight the pandemic. The new proposal aims to have the certificate work in harmony with existing programs.
The certificate program is designed for citizens of the EU and does not apply to those entering the bloc from outside. How to handle foreign travelers entering the EU will be left to member states themselves to determine.
Greece, for example, has announced that it would be exploring an entry scheme for vaccinated visitors from Russia. Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine, has not been approved by the European Medicine Agency, but the EU allows member states to accept the validity of other vaccinations.
Greece’s long push for the vaccine certificate
Athens was an early leader on proposing an EU certificate for vaccinated citizens.
Keen to ease travel among EU countries, Greece has proposed the introduction of a COVID 19 vaccination certificate as far back as January.
“It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states,” said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in a letter to von der Leyen at the time.
Mitsotakis stressed that the idea was “simple” but the execution of it would require high level EU attention to succeed.
Other Greek ministers also encouraged the EU to act on the certificate idea and take it into serious consideration. Greece’s tourism minister Harry Theocharis called on EU leaders to “move more quickly” in an interview with the Financial Times to hasten an economic recovery.
Some of his other suggestions, including taking into account unvaccinated citizens looking to travel, appear to be reflected in the current proposal.
Greece began issuing a digital vaccination certificate for its citizens in February.