The European Parliament is set to vote by the end of April 2021 on the European Commission’s proposed Digital Green Certificate that is designed to facilitate safe and free movement of citizens across the European Union (EU) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Digital Green Certificate will serve the purpose of a ‘vaccination’ or ‘immunity’ passport for European Citizens. It is a temporary measure to assist EU citizens to move freely between Member States during the current Covid-19 Pandemic. Once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the COVID-19 international health emergency, the Digital Green Certificates will be suspended.
Until that time, the proposed Digital Green Certificates will provide digital proof that a person:
- has been vaccinated against COVID-19, or
- has received a negative test result, or
- has recovered from COVID-19.
The certificates will contain the individual’s name, date of birth, date of issuance, vaccination data, issuing EU country and a unique identifier.
The Digital Green Certificates will be valid in all EU Member States, shall be free of charge, and produced in digital and paper formats in the country’s national language together with English. The certificates will make use of Quick Response (QR) codes, that will capture the data and allow fast scanning of an individual’s essential vaccination details from their mobile device.
The European Commission’s proposal guides Member States to accept certificates regardless of the type of COVID-19 vaccine, provided that such vaccine has received EU-wide marketing authorisation.
How will the Digital Green Certificate work in practice?
Source: European Commission
The abovementioned verification stage verifies only the validity and authenticity of the certificate by checking the issuer and unique identifier details, not the personal information of the certificate holder. Data contained in the Digital Green Certificate cannot be retained by the visited countries. The data will remain with the Member State that issued the certificate.
Certificates will be issued by the National Health Authorities of each Member State, allowing every EU citizen or third-country nationals legally staying or residing in the EU or Schengen Associated States, to travel without restrictions in the same way citizens from the visited Member State. The certificate is also to be issued to family members of EU citizens, irrespective of their nationality. An EU Member State that continues to require holders of a Digital Green Certificate to quarantine or test, will need to notify the Commission to justify the decision.
The Digital Green Certificate could also be issued to nationals or residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican/Holy See, in particular where they are vaccinated by a Member State.
Malta was one of the first European Member States to moot the concept of an immunity passport at the end of last year, acknowledging the benefit of a standardised approach across the EU to increase cross-border travel and support those EU economies relying heavily on the tourism sector.