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The EU has proposed a vaccine passport scheme to allow free travel this summer and support the struggling tourism sector. Monasse Thierry/ANDBZ/ABACA
covid passports

EU countries agree to five key amendments to the Digital Green Certificate proposal

If approved by the European Parliament, the Irish Government would be obliged to issue Digital Green Certificates when they are requested by citizens for EU travel.

THE 27 EU member states have agreed on key amendments to the Digital Green Certificate proposal – also known as Covid passports – ahead of a vote due in the European Parliament on 28 April.

Today, EU ambassadors representing the 27 member states agreed a joint position on the pass that is hoped to allow a faster return to travel between EU member states, but has raised some concerns about whether they would amount as a version of mandatory vaccination, particularly where access to Covid-19 tests is limited.

Last month, six of Ireland’s 13 MEPs voted against an “urgency” proposal to fasttrack a vote that would allow Digital Green Certificates to be introduced more quickly – but without committee scrutiny. 68% of the European Parliament passed the urgency proposal.

What’s the idea behind them

The aim of Digital Green Certificates is to allow the return of free movement of people around Europe this summer – by proving that a person has either been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, has a negative test result, or has recovered from Covid-19.

Southern European states like Spain and Greece have pushed for Covid passports to be introduced, as their economies are heavily reliant on the summer holiday season.

But several EU members, such as France, have expressed concern it could discriminate against the majority of people who have not been offered a vaccine.

If approved by the European Parliament, the Irish Government would be obliged to issue Digital Green Certificates when they are requested by citizens for international travel. Whether they would be also used by the Irish government for the reopening of pubs, restaurants and return to events with large crowds is unclear.

The UK is also due to trial the use of its own version of Covid passports; New York also has a digital Covid passport called the ‘Excelsior Pass’, after the US federal government said that it would be inappropriate for it to set up a version of vaccine passports.

What was agreed to

Among the five amendments suggested by all 27 member states is a reference that a Digital Green Certificate “is not a precondition to exercise free movement rights and it is not an travel document, in order to stress the principle of non-discrimination, in particular towards non-vaccinated persons.”

EU member states also proposed an amendment that would enable Ireland and the other EU countries to “mutually accept certificates issued to third country nationals based on reciprocity”, in reference to how this policy could affect travel with Northern Ireland and within the Common Travel Area. 

The other three key amendments suggested were:

  • “A new article on the international dimension of the Digital Green Certificate, clarifying the treatment to be given to certificates issued to Union citizens and their family members as well as legally-staying/residing third-country nationals vaccinated in third countries
  • “The data protection provisions have been strengthened throughout the text of the main regulation, in particular on the basis of the joint opinion of the European data protection supervisor and the European data protection board
  • “The text now includes a transitional provision to ensure that Member States can continue using the systems currently have in place during a short period of six weeks after the entry into force of the main regulation and until the Digital Green Certificate framework is fully operational on their territory.”

Prime-Minister of Portugal António Costa said that the current epidemiological situation remains of “great concern”.

“The Digital Green Certificate comes in to facilitate safe and free movement. It is most important for our citizens, for our societies and for the recovery of our economies.

“I welcome this first step. It shows that we are ready to engage constructively with the European Parliament and the Commission to continue to move fast on these proposals, in order to have the certificate and the system fully operational this summer.”

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