EU inches closer to Covid-19 certificate for travel

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BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Parliament on Thursday (April 29) agreed on its position on how a Covid-19 certificate should work, bringing the European Union closer to launching a document to open up travel within the bloc.

Europe intends to have a certificate showing the bearer’s vaccination status, Covid-19 test results and/or evidence of having survived the disease up and running in June, in time for the continent’s summer vacation period.

While technical work has been ongoing to ensure the certificate is recognised across all 27 EU member states, final details have to be worked out involving capitals, the European Commission and the Parliament.

The first change Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called for to a commission proposal is the name. Instead of a “digital green certificate”, they want to call it an “EU Covid-19 certificate” – to avoid any implication of it becoming a “vaccine passport”.

They said the document should “neither serve as travel document nor become a pre-condition to exercise the right to free movement” and should only be in use for 12 months.

Stressing that the certificate should not result in discrimination, Parliament demanded that Covid-19 tests for travel should be free of charge. The commission has said that this issue should be left up to member states.

The Parliament’s negotiation position was announced on Thursday following a vote late Wednesday, with 540 MEPs in favour, 119 against and 31 abstentions.

‘Safe travel’

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the result, but ignored the proposed renaming of the certificate.

“The (European Parliament) adopting its position on a Digital Green Certificate is a key step towards free and safe travel this summer,” she tweeted.

She urged a “swift conclusion” to the final negotiations on the document, adding: “We will have the EU (virtual verification) gateway up and running by June, while supporting the timely roll-out of national systems.”

Initially, the plan is for EU citizens and residents in the bloc to be able to use the certificate to avoid quarantine, testing and other obstacles to intra-EU travel that have sprung