The European Union Health Passport Should Be In Use By Summer

In a meeting in the European Parliament Tuesday, the Commission said airlines could be using its proposed Digital Green Certificate by summer. However, it added that the health certificate would not constitute a ‘vaccine passport’.

Airlines could be using the EU Digital Green Certificate to check passengers’ COVID-vaccination status by summer. Photo: Getty Images

A tool to facilitate free movement

In a session of the European Parliament’s Justice Committee on Tuesday, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, told lawmakers that the bloc’s proposed Digital Green Certificate should be ready by summer.

The COVID travel certificate will contain information on vaccinations or antibodies as well as testing certificates and be valid until the WHO officially declares the pandemic over.

“What we want is to give to citizens, and member states a tool that provides the necessary trust and confidence. A tool that competent authorities can rely on wherever needed to facilitate free movement,” the Commissioner stated, according to Reuters.

“Similarly, an airline company could verify the validity of the certificate in a simple way at the check-in,” he continued, adding that this would lead to fewer discussions between staff and passengers at the gate.

Meanwhile, Reynders stressed that the certificate does not amount to a ‘vaccine passport’ that would on its own give people the right to travel freely. He said this would be discriminatory against those who, for one reason or another, cannot take the shot.

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Not a vaccine passport

Vaccine passports are currently being either implemented or discussed in several countries across the world. Israel has thus far gone the furthest, issuing a ‘Green Pass’ which allows the holder to visit concerts, bars, and gyms.

The thought of a few bytes of personal health data as a means to reopen travel and reboot the economy of countries heavily dependent on tourism may seem attractive. However, it raises concerns over discrimination between those who have – and those who have not.

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Vaccine passports raise concerns over discrimination over who is allowed to travel. Photo: Getty Images

The proposal being put forth by the Commission would mean that all 27 of the EU’s member states would need to recognize and honor the vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Thus far, this includes the vaccines from AstraZeneca, PfizerBiontech, Moderna, Janssen, and Johnson & Johnson. However, they could also choose to recognize others, such as Russia’s Sputnik V.

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Southern European countries are setting their hopes to the EU health pass to save the 2021 summer season. Photo: Aegean Airlines

Essential for southern European economies

While some Northern European countries remain skeptical of the EU’s Digital Green Certificate, many hope it will be the ticket to a return of a fairly normal state-of-affairs summer season. While bookings remain cautious for the first summer months, operators such as TUI say that demand for late summer and pre-fall are beginning to resemble any other year.

However, traveler demand is also very fickle, fluctuating with news that can be interpreted as either negative or positive. An overarching, EU-wide system would surely simplify the patchwork of regulations and systems of testing requirements currently in place across the continent. It remains to be seen if its staunchest opponents can be convinced and if the current vaccines will remain effective against other potential variants.

Do you think the EU’s Digital Green Certificate is the key to reopening travel across the continent? Let us know in the comments.