The Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission made the EU Digital vaccine certificate official, marking the end of the legislative process and ensuring that inter country travel on the continent would be made as effortless as possible.
Presidents David Sassoli and Ursula von der Leyen, along with Prime Minister António Costa, stated “The EU Digital Covid Certificate is a symbol of what Europe stands for. Of a Europe that does not falter when put to the test.
“A Europe that unites and grows when faced with challenges. Our Union showed again that we work best when we work together. The EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation was agreed between our institutions in the record time of 62 days. While we worked through the legislative process, we also built the technical backbone of the system, the EU gateway, which has been live since June 1.
“We can be proud of this great achievement”
“We can be proud of this great achievement. The Europe that we all know and that we all want back is a Europe without barriers. The EU vaccine certificate will again enable citizens to enjoy this most tangible and cherished of EU rights – the right to free movement. Signed into law today, it will enable us to travel more safely this summer. Today we reaffirm together that an open Europe prevails.”
The idea for a vaccine certificate, also referred to as a Green Passport, was originally put forward by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in January of this year, as a way to get ahead of the Summer tourism season and assure the nation that opening up the country to travelers once again would be safe.
All Europeans already have the right to move freely inside the continent, even without the new certificate, but the new document greatly enhances travel, precluding quarantines for hose who are vaccinated or who can show that they are free from the virus.
The EU Digital vaccine certificate is now available on paper or digitally for all EU citizens, free of charge. It is completely secure and contains a unique QR code for each individual.
Under the regulation, member states must refrain from imposing any additional travel restrictions on the holders of an EU Digital Covid Certificate, unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health.
As an additional way to support individual nations of the EU, the Commission agreed to make available €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument to implement all necessary testing of travelers.
The vaccine certificate regulation will be in effect as of July 1, 2021 for the duration of one year.
Idea for vaccine certificate proposed by PM Mitsotakis
After two months of informal talks amongst EU leaders after Prime Minister Mitsotakis brought up the idea, the EC presented a proposal to in March create a new certificate to facilitate the safe and free movement of citizens within the EU as the pandemic continued to unfold.
In June, the technical structure of the new system, called the “EU Gateway,” which allows the verification of security features contained in the QR codes, went online.
After today, there will be an initial grace period of six weeks for the issuance of certificates for those member states that need additional time to get their systems up and running.
13 Member States have already started to issue EU Digital COVID Certificates and are ready to enter the EUDCC Gateway, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria,Croatia,Cyprus,Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithiania, Luyxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden. Additional countries which are not part of the EU but are taking part in the initiative are Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
States that are not yet ready to enter the system include Finland, Malta and Hungary, which are still in a test phase for the digital certificate.
Vaccine certificate exceptions for areas experiencing surges in variants of concern or interest
Those who are now partially vaccinated will face different restrictions in light of the new variants which are rearing their heads around the globe, however. According to an updated guideline on just who can travel, the EU told its member states that they should continue to “strongly discourage” all unnecessary travel to what it termed “dark areas,” those which show orange or red on the coronavirus maps.
This denotes areas with a high prevalence of COVID-19 “variants of concern” or “interest” and to areas in which it is unknown exactly which variants are prevalent because of insufficient sequencing.
All those traveling in to the EU from these areas should still be required to have a negative test and be quarantined if necessary, according to the new ruling.
People traveling from a “red” area should be quarantined until they receive a negative test and people traveling from an “orange” area may be required to take a test upon arrival, the EU stated.
Green, Orange, Red, Dark Red
Monday’s ruling raises the limits for including an area in one of four defined colors:
Green: if the 14-day alert rate is less than 50 and the test positivity rate is below 4%, or if the 14-day alert rate is less than 75 and the positivity rate is less than 1%.
Orange: if the percentage of the last 14 days is less than 50 and the test positive rate is 4% or more; if the 14-day alert rate is between 50 and 75 and the positive test rate is 1% or higher; or if the 14-day notice rate is between 75 and 200 and positive test rate is less than 4%
Red: if the percentage of the last 14 days is between 75 and 200 and the positive test rate is 4% or higher; or if the percentage of the last 14 days is between 200 and 500
Dark red: the limit for this color is maintained at levels above 500.
When the epidemiological situation in an area deteriorates rapidly, in particular due to the high prevalence of variants of concern or interest, Member States will be able to rely on the “Emergency brake” backup system. On this basis, Member States should also require even people who have been vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19 to be tested and/or quarantined.
EU states partially vaccinated people may travel the same as those fully vaccinated if member states allow
The ruling also stated that all children under the age of 12 should be exempt from the requirement to take a test, nor should they be required to quarantine if the person accompanying them is not required to be quarantined; for example because they have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid.
In a related ruling, the EU stated on Monday that even those who have only received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine can now travel as freely as those who are fully vaccinated, according to the decision of each individual member state.
In addition, all those who have recovered from the coronavirus and have a certificate stating that less than 180 days have elapsed from the date of a positive test result must not be subjected to a test or quarantine.
The Council, in close cooperation with the Commission and supported by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, will continue to review the situation, according to Monday’s statement.