UNITED KINGDOM. London: EU leaders have agreed on the need for vaccine passports to allow travel within the bloc and, potentially, from third countries as well.
The proposal was one of the topics on Thursday’s EU leaders’ videoconference agenda.
Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter: “Looking forward to #EUCO discussions today. I will ask EU leaders to: support the HERA incubator for a strong response to variants, apply our recommendation on restrictions to free movement, find a common approach to vaccination certificates, as summer nears.”
However, German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that vaccine passports could take up to three months for the EU to configure. Thus, it might be ready in time for the summer holidays.
COVID-19 certificates to “ensure the functioning of the Single Market”
In her statement, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said that these certificates still leave “a number of open questions.”
Among the concerns there are what these certificates will be used for and whether the vaccine can prevent the transmission.
For instance, France and Germany have shown scepticism as they suggested data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing the virus are not clear, BBC reports.
However, von der Leyen highlighted that “at EU level, I believe we should use them to ensure the functioning of the Single Market.”
Greece calls for EU-wide vaccine certificates
Greece is already in talks with Britain about using a digital certificate to allow Brits to travel to the country over the summer.
Tourism in Greece contributes to 25% of the national GDP, and the government has been calling for an EU-wide vaccine certificate to ensure its economy can benefit from summer tourism.
In an interview with the BBC, Greek Deputy Prime Minister, Akis Skertos, said that non-vaccinated tourists could still visit Greece, but they would have to be tested and might need to self-isolate on arrival.
Thus, a vaccine certificate would be the quickest way to enter the country.
Spain, Austria and Bulgaria also support the EU-wide certificate; however, Vienna said that “it would implement its own if the EU cannot agree on anything by spring”, Sky News reports.
Some countries are worried about discrimination
Some countries, including France, Belgium and Romania have argued that vaccine certificates would discriminate against those who have not got the vaccine yet.
French President, Emmanuel Macron, said that certificates would be unfair for young people who might still need to wait months to get their COVID-19 jab.
However, some countries are developing their own systems. For instance, Denmark is planning to launch a digital passport to prove a traveller’s vaccination status, and it said will be compatible with any EU-wide vaccine passport scheme.
EU slow vaccination rollout
EU countries are still struggling with a slow vaccination rollout. Although the Commission still aims to vaccinate at least 70% of adults by mid-September, so far, they have vaccinated less than the 10%.
The European Commission wrote on Twitter: “The spread of our vaccination effort is increasing. More than 29 million doses have been administrated as of today. We should maintain our utmost efforts so the pace of the vaccination picks up.”