To comply with measures trying to limit the spread of covid, travellers to and within the EU have been asked to date to provide any of a range of documents like test results, personal declarations, etc, but obviously these have not been of a standardised format, and the EU Commission says that this has resulted in travellers experiencing problems when moving within the EU, as well as generating reports of fraudulent or forged documents. The Commission has therefore been working on a common approach to what’s been popularly called a vaccine passport, and today it has announced plans for a Digital Green Certificate, avoiding the word passport because it implies a universal entitlement and therefore could be suggestive of discrimination against those not yet vaccinated.
As yet, this is just a legislative proposal which still has to be approved by both the EU Council and European Parliament. If and when it is in place, however, it will be a temporary measure until the WHO declares the pandemic over, and it will provide proof that the person has either been vaccinated against covid or has recovered from it, or alternatively has received a negative test result – this last because the EU says it would be discriminatory otherwise against those who couldn’t have had the vaccine at the point they need to travel. The certificate will be available free of charge either in electronic or paper form, and will include a QR code to guarantee authenticity.
The Commission says that it has also adopted a complementary proposal to ensure that the Certificate will be issued to non-EU nationals who reside in member states (eg British residents in Spain), and it stresses that while there’ll be separate proposals for non-EU citizens which are necessary for legal reasons. there will be no difference in treatment of citizens and eligible non-EU citizens. Importantly, the certificate is not intended as a pre-condition for travel, but neither is it a guarantee of free movement. What it will do is free the holder from any testing or quarantine requirements, and member states would have to accept it as they would be required to accept any vaccine proof that entitled arrivals to a waiver from restrictions set in that country.
Although the certificate is intended for EU nationals and residents within the EU, the plan also allows, subject to Commission approval, countries like Spain, with an economy heavily reliant on tourism, to agree bilateral arrangements with non-EU member states like the UK. There is an EU Commission Q&A page HERE on the proposals but obviously this is still early days. Spain, however, will welcome the announcement because it has been pushing for months for such a scheme under pressure from the tourism sector to introduce such a plan unilaterally for economic reasons, something the country did not want to do if there were a coordinated EU system.