Wednesday, June 9, 2021

EU Travel: Parliament Gives Its Final Green Light to EU COVID Vaccine Passport

The Parliament of the European Union has given its final nod to the EU COVID vaccine certificates by approving the regulation on the document with 546 votes to 93 and 51 abstentions for EU citizens, and with 553 to 91 and 46 abstentions for third-country nationals.

In the plenary meeting held on June 8, the MEPs completed the legislative work on the certificates, which intend to recover restriction-free travel within the block.

Commenting on the regulation, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) asserted that the Parliament’s vote has set the pace for fully restoring the freedom of movement and a fully functional Schengen while the block continues to fight the Coronavirus.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate will function from July 1, and will ensure safe and coordinated travel this summer. EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate, and it is reassuring that some are already issuing the certificate,” López Aguilar added.

The MEPs have also managed to secure an agreement that obliges the Member States to refrain from imposing additional entry restrictions on those holding EU COVID certificates, including vaccination passports, like quarantine, or more testing.

Such additional measures may be imposed on certificate holders only in cases when the traveller’s country of departure marks an increased number of COVID-19 infections. Even in such cases, the Member States are obliged to notify the Commission 48 hours in advance on the undertaken measures.

While the EU has failed to reach an agreement through will travellers would have free access to COVID-19 testing, the Parliament still encourages the EU countries to ensure that testing is affordable and widely available.

In order to make such a thing possible, the Commission has pledged to allocate a sum of €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument to the Member States.

As per the acceptance of COVID-19 certificates for travellers vaccinated with vaccines that haven’t been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) yet, like China’s and Russia’s vaccines, it will be up to the Member States to decide whether such certificates are valid for their territory or not.

Regarding the legal procedures, the regulation now has to be e formally adopted by the Council. Once that happens, it will then be published in the Official Journal for immediate entry into force and application from July 1.

Over a year ago, in April 2020, reported that such certificates might be imposed on travellers and Schengen visa applicants once the COVID-19 vaccine was approved and available.

The certificates are already being issued by nine countries, which are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Poland, Lithuania, and Spain. While Finland, Hungary, Malta, Switzerland, and Norway are still in the testing phase, the rest of the EU and Schengen countries are technically ready to connect to the EUDCC gateway.

Ahead of yesterday’s plenary meeting, the EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders revealed that more than one million EU citizens have obtained their EU COVID-19 passport since these countries started issuing the document.

>> Read also: All Details on EU COVID-19 Passport Revealed: Here’s What You Need to Know

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