Saving free movement and the tourism industry with an EU vaccination passport - dubbed a Digital Green Certificate
The freedom of movement in the European Union has been battered by EU countries imposing border closures within the EU for over one year now, with tremendous negative consequences for industry and services. Supply chains have been severely disrupted and the tourism industry nearly destroyed.
Now that vaccination campaigns are gaining momentum as the most effective means of getting out of the Corona pandemic, the question arises whether "vaccination passports" offer the way out of restrictions on free movement.
Against the background of differences in opinion between the countries and the populations, the European Commission has now taken the initiative to introduce by the beginning of the summer a "Digital Green Certificate". A vaccination certificate already exists in Israel under the name "Green Pass".
See Commission proposal COM (2021)1 130 and Press release IP 21/1181.2
What is the content of the proposal and will it arrive in time for saving the summer?
The main points addressed in the proposal are the accessibility and security of certificates for all EU citizens, the non-discrimination and the use of only essential information and secure personal data. This is the Commission's response to the strong adverse reactions in some countries and populations to plans of a vaccination passport for the EU.
The Digital Green Certificate should cover three types of certificates –vaccination certificates, test certificates (NAAT/RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test), and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19. The certificates are to be issued in digital form or on paper. Both versions should have a QR code containing the necessary key information and a digital signature to ensure that the certificate is authentic. To this end, the Commission intends to build a gateway and support EU Member States in developing software that will allow authorities to verify all certificate signatures across the EU. In doing so, no personal data of the certificate holders should be routed through the gateway nor stored by the verifying Member State. Certificates are to be available free of charge and in the official language(s) of the issuing Member State and in English.
As a consequence, certain public health restrictions such as testing or quarantine will be waived in member states where proof of vaccination is accepted through the certificate. If a measure is taken despite a Digital Green Certificate, it shall be explained and justified before the Commission.
To address the privacy concerns, the Commission makes clear, only essential information such as name, date of birth, date of issue, relevant vaccination/test/cure information and unique identifiers are to be stored.3
The use of data is restricted to verifying the authenticity and validity of the certificates.
Which steps are necessary to make the certificate off the ground?
The ball has been set rolling by the European Council in February 2021 and the Commission has been working with Member States to prepare for vaccination certificate interoperability. The eHealth network of national authorities responsible for eHealth services agreed guidelines and a draft trust framework.4
In order to achieve the Commission's ambitious goal the European Parliament and the Member States in the Council must rapidly agree and adopt the regulation. Whether this will be accomplished depends on our politicians. Meanwhile, the EU countries have to implement the trust framework and technical standards agreed in the eHealth network.
As shown in the Trust framework outline: https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/ehealth/docs/trust-framework_interoperability_certificates_en.pdf.