A pan-European Covid health certificate scheme is on track to launch in June with the hope of opening up travel for the summer
The EU’s Digital Green Certificate (DGC) aims to facilitate travel within the bloc and the wider EEA by authenticating and standardising proof of documents, such as Covid tests and vaccinations.
Non-EU countries could link to it. The UK and US are looking into compatibility.
Certificates will be free and available in digital or printed versions. They will be in English and in the issuer’s national language.
Arrivals in participating EU countries who have a certificate should face no additional entry restrictions compared to returning nationals. If they are asked to take further tests, the country will have to justify why to the EU Commission.
Johannes Bahrke, EU Commission spokesman on digital innovation, said: “People can have paperwork which is not recognised by another country and it is complicated to prove that you have had a vaccine or a test. There may be a language barrier, etc.
“The proposal is to facilitate free movement within the EU, which is a fundamental right, and is hampered by the fact that there are different standards and documents in each country. It is not a precondition to travel – that is why we call it a certificate [as opposed to a passport]. We are confident it will be in place by summer.”
With the help of this certificate, it is hoped summer travel around the EU will be possible under similar conditions to last year.
Official EU-recognised certificates will be available to people who have been vaccinated against Covid, have had a recent negative test result, or who have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months.
The digital version will be available to save on a phone, similar to the Covid attestations which have been used in France to go out during curfew or lockdown.
Certificates will include basic information and a QR scan code for accessing databases and will be issued by national authorities via hospitals, test centres and health authorities.
The scheme will be linked to individual countries’ approved data storage projects, such as France’s TousAntiCovid app.
The plan still has to be formally approved by the European Parliament and Council, and member states have to prepare digital infrastructure, however the Commission is confident there is “a strong will among EU member states for this”, Mr Bahrke said.
The scheme will also help to fight against fraud, such as use of fake test certificates.
All EU citizens and family members, as well as non-EU nationals staying or living in member states and who have the right to travel to other member states, will be eligible for free DGCs.
It is proposed that a non-EU national could request a certificate from a member state to which he or she is travelling if they can provide the necessary information. Mr Bahrke said that, in the medium term, the EU is looking into partnerships with non-EU countries.
“We are working to make sure that the certificates are compatible with systems in countries outside the EU and are putting in place a system for the recognition of third-country certificates of comparable security.”
It has yet to be clarified if the certificates could also be used by holders to access cultural or leisure spaces in countries which introduce rules requiring a vaccination for access. Denmark has such a system for cinemas, gyms or sports events.
A French firm, Jouve, has been working on the concept of an EU citizen’s vaccination card since 2019 at the request of the EU. It told The Connexion the EU is “leaning on its work”.