Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Parliament voted today to implement COVID-19 certificates across the bloc and to have them officially up and running as of 1 July. The passport system will then run for 12 months.
“Today the Parliament has set the pace to restore free movement and a fully functional Schengen while we continue to fight this pandemic”, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee, MEP Juan Fernando Aguillar (S&D), announced.
MEPs voted during the plenary session in Strasbourg, with 546 votes for, 93 against and 51 abstentions.
According to the Parliament, the certificates are intended to facilitate free movement and facilitate the gradual lifting of restrictions in a coordinated manner.
“EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate, and it is reassuring that some are already issuing the certificate“, Aguillar added.
Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, Spain and the Czech Republic have already started issuing COVID-19 certificates.
To date, one million certificates have been issued within the EU, the Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, announced today.
Following complaints of very expensive tests and discrepancies across member states, the Parliament has mobilised the European Commission to allocate 100 million euro in EU funds to purchase PCR tests.
“EU states are encouraged to ensure testing is affordable and widely available”, it noted.
Discussing what vaccines should be eligible under the certificate scheme, the Parliament said that all EU countries must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines that have been authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Vaccines recognized by the EMA include Comirnaty (BioNTech, Pfizer), Moderna, Vaxzevria (previously COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, Oxford), and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
Member states will be free to decide whether they also accept certificates for vaccines authorised on the basis of national authorisation procedures or for vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
As for privacy and data security, the Parliament said that personal data must be processed in line with the General Data Protection Regulation.
“Certificates will be verified offline and no personal data will be retained”, the Parliament assured.
MEPs Maria da Graça Carvalho (EPP) and Georgios Kyrtsos (EPP) have proposed a blockchain-like technology to validate and record tests and vaccination.
“The authenticity of certificates for COVID-19 tests and vaccination is a matter of serious concern in all EU member states, and it is our firm belief that blockchain technology is the best option to create a reliable validity mechanism”, the MEPs noted.