The European Commission committed to mobilising at least €100 million to make tests more affordable, while EU countries will not impose additional travel restrictions.
The European Parliament and the member states reached a provisional deal on Thursday (20 May) on free COVID-19 certificates designed to make travel easier and open up tourism across Europe.
According to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, “the EU Digital COVID Certificate is free of charge, secure and accessible to all. It will cover vaccination, test and recovery offering different options to the citizens. It fully respects citizens' fundamental rights, including protection of personal data”.
The text will be confirmed by the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) and adopted by the the EU during its plenary session on 7-10 June. In parallel, the Council will have to confirm the agreement as well.
“This will obviously will mark summer 2021. We won’t be repeating the nightmare of summer 2020”, the Parliament’s rapporteur and chair of the LIBE committee, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, said after the negotiations finalised.
The certificate will be a QR code on a smartphone or printed on paper, showing that a person has received a vaccine, has had a recent negative test result or has recovered from the infection. France, Malta and the Netherlands will be the first EU countries to test out the scheme.
It will also cover non-EU members of the border-free Schengen zone such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
The negotiations were complicated, specially “finding common ground for test price, restrictions of individual member states, duration of the certificate and vaccination outside of the EU were the hardest parts”, explained Lopez Aguilar.
Regarding the cost of the required tests, the European Commission, which also participated in the negotiations, committed to mobilising “at least €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument to help the member states offset the cost of the tests”.
Furthermore, EU countries agreed not to impose additional travel restrictions such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing. The only exception will be if additional restrictions “are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health”.
In the press conference on the agreement, EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders urged all Member States “to get fully ready during the month of June, so they can hit the ground running when the regulation enters into force on 1 July” and confirmed that “the Commission has allocated a million Euros per Member State” for that.
Denmark was the first country in Europe to ask for a Covid-19 passport for certain activities inside its borders. Thomas B. Mikkelsen, Chairman of Danish Evangelical Alliance (DEA), told Evangelical Focus that the measure “will probably not have negative consequences for worship places in Denmark”, and it “not led to a considerable discussion among church leaders”.
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, over 1,000 Christian leaders sent a letter to the Prime Minister rejecting vaccine passports, because they think it is “an unethical form of coercion” that “creates a two-tier society”. They “envisaged no circumstances in which we could close our doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport”. Later, the Evangelical Alliance of the country also asked that all human rights are respected, but added that “churches will not be required to shut their doors or operate a two-tier system of the ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’”.
In Switzerland, the government is planning to ask for a Covid-19 certificate to access to places of worship. The Swiss Evangelical Alliance (RES) pointed out that the measure “would be disproportionate, as the evangelical churches have implemented other effective coronavirus protection measures from the outset".