Petr Dubinsky

MEPs Set To Approve COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

A majority of MEPs today intend to support the introduction of so-called covid passports, which are intended to make it easier for people to travel across borders during a pandemic from July. In the morning debate, MEPs said that digital certificates would be a great relief for the people of the European Union and the needy tourism industry. According to a number of MEPs, the success of the system will depend mainly on the approach of the member states, which should strive for its smooth start-up and operation. EU Commissioner Didier Reynders said more than a million people had already been certified in several countries. Czechs are among them.

MEPs received the final approval of passports under an abbreviated procedure less than three months after the European Commission proposed their introduction in March. People vaccinated, those with a negative test or antibodies after an illness will be able to get the certificate free of charge. According to a large number of legislators, this is a crucial step in restoring freedom of movement, which EU countries have restricted because of coronavirus.

“The Member States now have work to do to ensure that the system works,” Juan López Aguilar, chief parliamentary negotiator, said today. Like other MEPs, he stressed that states had refused to give up emergency options when negotiating certificate parameters, which would allow them to require, for example, quarantine or other additional conditions from passport holders in the event of a worsening epidemic situation. According to MEPs, countries should only do so in exceptional cases and inform about their intention well in advance.

MEPs also failed to push for passport tests to be completely free, which would prevent discrimination against unvaccinated people. States have agreed that the tests will be “affordable” and many countries want to start offering them for free to some extent. All states will be obliged to recognize vaccines approved on the basis of the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and may also accept other preparations at their discretion, such as the Russian Sputnik V.

Nine EU countries – the Czechia, Germany, Poland, Spain, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark and Lithuania – have already started offering certificates to people in trial operation. “More than a million people have already received the certificates and many more will follow in the coming weeks and months,” Commissioner Reynders said today. According to him, Brussels expects that sharp traffic in all states will start on July 1. Until then, the country must prepare its national databases and link them into a single system, so that the certificate can be read immediately throughout the Union.

MEPs will vote on the certificates in the evening, with the EP announcing the announcement on Wednesday morning.