Finally, after months of negotiation between the European Parliament, national governments and the Commission, the European authorities have managed to reach an agreement for the EU COVID Digital Certificate to enter into force on July 1. The objective was clear (to reach the summer with “a tool to regain mobility”, to simplify procedures and speed up the arrival to normality); the final results are being more modest.
How will the Digital Certificate work?
What will the certificate finally consist of? In a free and universal document issued by the autonomous communities that, with the minimum personal data, clarifies if the person has been vaccinated (when, where and with what vaccine), if they have overcome the disease in the previous six months and have antibodies and the results of the PCR to be done. All with a QR code that can be digital or printed on paper.
It will operate for twelve months and will include both vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Jannsen) and those approved only by a member country (as in the case of Hungary, which has also approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine). However, each country may decide whether it considers the latter valid. Be that as it may, the Certificate will not be mandatory for travel and simply aims to simplify processes.
Will it allow to move throughout the EU? Yes and no. As stated in the agreed text (and which will be endorsed next week) the EU countries, as a general rule, may not and should not require a PCR or a mandatory quarantine to whoever has the vaccination certificate. The emphasis is ours because in practice the agreement leaves a huge space for each country to act as it sees fit according to its specific epidemiological situation.
It is true that there will be objective criteria, but everything seems to indicate that the text has been carefully written so that States can do and undo without further conditioning that “notify its partners and the European Commission 48 hours in advance” and justify “the reasons for imposing (the restrictions), their scope, their duration and which certificate holders are subject to or exempt” from them.
A tough negotiation And this has been one of the great obstacles to reaching an agreement: although there is a general consensus that a mechanism was necessary to simplify the cross-border process and allow anyone who is vaccinated, has a recent PCR or has just passed the virus and have antibodies can avoid procedures, quarantines and extra tests, the member countries have been very reluctant to give up the ability to limit the mobility of these certificates.
In fact, many other things have fallen by the wayside. Things like free PCRs have finally been left out of the agreement (Although a budget of up to 100 million euros has been released to subsidize the tests of those who travel for medical reasons and cross-border workers).