Plans to introduce digital travel certificates fast-tracked by European Parliament

Plans to introduce digital travel certificates fast-tracked by European Parliament

Bid to allow countries dependent on tourism like Greece to have a summer season

Members of the European Parliament have voted to fast-track approval of a Digital Green Certificate with the aim of having the process in place for this summer.

MEPs voted to accelerate the process of developing the certificates by a majority of more than two to one, allowing a speed-up of parliamentary scrutiny of European Commission proposals.

However, MEPs also warned that the spread of Covid-19 variants and their impact was not being adequately monitored in parts of the EU.

They noted some member states “have little or no capacity” to analyse virus samples through genomic sequencing.

The EC presented a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Certificate last week.

European Commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides said: “The goal is to be able to facilitate the safe movement of citizens, especially for countries like Greece which are waiting for the summer season.”

She said the certificate would be a “flexible document that will be revised according to scientific and medical developments.”

How the certificate is used will be up to individual member states. The EC proposal noted a member state may “continue to require holders of a Digital Green Certificate to quarantine or test” so long as it notifies the Commission and “explains the reasons”.

The Commission has proposed the digital certificates could include Covid-19 test results, information on whether the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19 or information on recovery from a Covid infection.

Several MEPs highlighted the need for strong data-protection safeguards and stressed that those who have not been vaccinated should not face discrimination.

The certificate proposals will need to be endorsed by both the Parliament and the European Council, with the next session Parliament set for April 26-29.

The European Council was due to debate the proposals at its summit this week.

Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, chair of the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament, said: “We need the Digital Green Certificate to re-establish our confidence in the Schengen zone while continuing to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The certificate cannot be a precondition for free movement as this is a fundamental right in the EU, and it cannot lead to discrimination against those individuals who do not hold one.”

He added: “Citizens’ data must be safe and only necessary data should be included in the certificate.”