To go to Italy or Spain for a few days this summer, will it be necessary to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or to have tested negative?
This is the idea of the European “green digital passport”, which will be put on the table in March.
Its goal ?
"Gradually allow safe travel within the European Union or abroad - for work or tourism," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.
This device should not be confused with the French "sanitary pass", which Emmanuel Macron mentioned Thursday, February 25 and which would facilitate the reopening of certain shutdown activities in France.
Here, at that date, what we know about the European project and the many questions it poses.
What does the European Commission propose?
Ursula von der Leyen, announced that she would submit a legislative proposal aimed at "making life easier for Europeans".
If a person is vaccinated, has a negative test, or has antibodies resulting from a past infection, he or she may be allowed to move more freely from one country to another.
"We must take into account the vaccination but also other elements [proving that we are not sick] in order to avoid discrimination", explains one to the European Commission.
We'll present this month a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Pass.
The aim is to provide:
• Proof that a person has been vaccinated
• Results of tests for those who couldn't get a vaccine yet
• Info on COVID19 recovery
It will respect data protection, security & privacy
- Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 1, 2021
This proposal will be submitted to the European Parliament, which can modify the text and then vote on it.
At the same time, the European Council bringing together the 27 heads of state and government will also look into it.
The legal mechanism on which this legislative proposal will be based is not yet fully defined.
It is also not known whether the qualified majority of the 27 member states will suffice for the adoption of the text, even if a source considers that this is the “most probable” track.
Concretely, how could this work?
Our various interlocutors agree that it is too early to define precisely how this device could work.
"The idea for now is to work on it, it will gradually settle by exchanging," said MEP Fabienne Keller (Renew Europe).
We could justify that we have been vaccinated or tested negative via an application on their smartphone, in particular.
But not only because "it will also be necessary to avoid another discrimination, between those who are comfortable with this kind of device and the others", judges within the European Commission.
Ursula von der Leyen has also already indicated that the device will guarantee "the protection, security and confidentiality of data".
"On the technical issue of infrastructure development, we give ourselves a timing of at least three months," said an internal source.
Which refers, at a minimum, to the beginning of summer.
Why is this debated?
Such a device would not be trivial, points out the political scientist Patrick Martin-Genier.
“It will be an obstacle to freedom of movement for people who do not want or cannot get vaccinated and do not have a test.
Until then, it was the states that did it.
There, it would be the Commission itself whereas it is contrary to the European texts to set up exceptions for health reasons ”, judges this specialist in European issues.
"It is not a question of restricting" movement, defended a spokesman for the European Commission, Monday.
In addition, access to vaccination is still very limited and it is not the same in all countries.
The rate of the population having already received at least one dose of vaccine ranges from less than 4% in Croatia to almost 12% in Malta, according to data compiled by the OurWorldInData website.
No country should be able to vaccinate all its voluntary inhabitants by June.
And all categories have not been placed in the same boat.
Those under 50, potentially those most thirsty to travel with friends on vacation, should often arrive last.
And therefore have much less chance of being vaccinated by June or July.
Covid-19: this "third wave" which worries in Central Europe
The vaccine also poses the problem that we do not know with certainty, for the time being, whether it limits infections as much as serious forms of the disease.
And when a negative test could be sufficient, "the price and the validity of the tests vary greatly from one country to another", points out Alberto Alemanno, professor of European law at HEC Paris.
“The vaccination passport is a very bad answer to a very good question and I have the impression that it is more of a gadget than anything else.
It is better to facilitate coordination between countries to set rules even if that presupposes good political will, ”thunders the lawyer.
What do France and other European countries think of it?
It is an understatement to say that the 27 European states are not all sympathetic to this idea.
"For Belgium, there is no question of linking vaccination to freedom of movement across Europe", criticized Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès on Monday.
"In the future, it will certainly be good to have such a certificate, but that does not mean that only those who have one will be able to travel", underlined for her part last week the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the same cautious line than France.
These countries are particularly worried about a risk of discrimination, an attack on individual freedoms, and a lack of relevance if the vaccine does not fully protect against contamination.
"We think it's premature" to imagine it, summed up the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, in Midi Libre on February 18.
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Other countries have already clearly shown their support.
This is particularly the case of those who depend a lot on tourism, such as Spain, Greece, or Austria.
A European digital passport "offers the possibility of regaining the freedom to travel and the old freedoms across Europe," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday.
Der digitale grüne Pass für Geimpfte, Getestete und Genesene ist die Chance, europaweit die Reisefreiheit zurückzuerlangen sowie alte Freiheiten.
Der grüne Pass ist die Basis dafür.
Danke an EU-Kommissionspräsidentin @vonderleyen für den Einsatz!
- Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) March 1, 2021