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Digital Green Certificate proposed for travel in Europe

Digital Green Certificates will supposedly help re-establish freedom of movement within the European Union

The European Commission (EC) has proposed the creation of a Digital Green Certificate vaccine passport to enable safe freedom of movement within the European Union (EU) for the remainder of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Delivered either digitally or in paper format, the free-of-charge certificate will demonstrate either than an individual has been vaccinated against Covid-19, received a negative test, or recently recovered from the coronavirus, with security and authenticity supposedly guaranteed by means of a QR code.

The data gathered under the scheme will be limited to names, dates of birth, dates of issuance, relevant information on Covid-19 status, and a unique identifier, and this will only be allowed to be checked to confirm and verify the authenticity and validity of certificates.

An online gateway service will be set up to ensure that certificates can be verified across the 27-member bloc, and to support member states in the technical implementation of certificates. The EC said no personal data of certificate holders would pass through the gateway or be retained by the verifying country.

Since EU member states are individually sovereign nations that retain the ability to operate independently of one another, responsibility for which public health restrictions can be waived for travellers will be delegated to each country, although they will have to apply such waivers in the same way to travellers in possession of a Digital Green Certificate.

EC vice-president for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, said: “The Digital Green Certificate offers an EU-wide solution to ensure that EU citizens benefit from a harmonised digital tool to support free movement in the EU. This is a good message in support of recovery.

“Our key objectives are to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection. And we continue working towards international convergence with other partners.”

The EC believes that everybody, both vaccinated and non-vaccinated, should be able to benefit from the programme when travelling within the bloc, hence measures to incorporate Covid-19 test results and information on recent infections, which it argues will prevent discrimination against those who have either yet to be vaccinated or have refused vaccination.

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, added: “With the Digital Green Certificate, we are taking a European approach to ensure EU citizens and their family members can travel safely and with minimum restrictions this summer.

“The Digital Green Certificate will not be a pre-condition to free movement and it will not discriminate in any way. A common EU-approach will not only help us to gradually restore free movement within the EU and avoid fragmentation. It is also a chance to influence global standards and lead by example based on our European values like data protection.”

The programme will be open to all 27 EU members alongside Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, while additional measures will be taken to ensure it will also be open to Britons and other non-EU nationals living within EU territory, and to visitors who have the right to travel between member states – this would at face value appear to include British visitors to EU countries.

The proposals will now go before the European Parliament and Council in short order so that they can be implemented before the summer of 2021.

Read more about vaccine passports

  • Privacy campaigners warn that vaccine passports may turn out to be discriminatory and invasive, while technologists agree careful consideration must be given to their design.
  • Evidence gathering exercise will inform the development of the UK’s proposed Covid-19 vaccine passport scheme.
  • Vaccine or immunity passports are an opportunity to advance the design of trustworthy digital systems, but much more work still needs to be done.

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