Digital Green Certificates: MEPs seek clarification regarding the travel facilitation tool

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LIBE Committee - COVID-19 pandemic Digital Green Certificate
  • Commission assures that technical infrastructure work would be completed by end of June
  • Certificate must not become a ‘de facto’ precondition for travelling 
  • High data protection standards in line with EU data protection rules are key  

On Tuesday, MEPs quizzed Commissioner Reynders on the recently proposed Digital Green Certificate and discussed data protection aspects with the EDPS.

In the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday, Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders underscored the proposal’s aim to facilitate free movement and non-discrimination of EU citizens during the pandemic. It provides for the creation of free digital or paper certificates on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and recovery, and would be limited to the pandemic, he stressed.

Reynders reassured MEPs that the Commission is ready to complete the necessary technical infrastructural work by the end of June, and that the certificate would not result in a central database created at the EU level.

Certificate to facilitate free movement without discrimination

Several MEPs warned against the certificate becoming a ‘de facto’ precondition for travelling in Europe, undermining its intended purpose of facilitating free movement. They urged the Commission to remain vigilant and enforce free movement in the face of potential moves by member states.

MEPs also pointed to the lack of consensus around the issue of acquired immunity and noted that the Commission will need to take into account future scientific developments and international standards when designing the certificate. The situation of those inoculated with with vaccines not currently recognized by EMA, was also raised in the discussion.

Several MEPs sought clarifications on the relationship between the EU certificate and similar but separate national initiatives in member states considering their own health certificates. Other MEPs also pointed out that citizens urgently need access to affordable PCR tests in order to avoid potential discrimination against those not vaccinated.

The European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski, presented to the committee the joint opinion by the EDPS and the European Data Protection Board on the Commission’s proposal. MEPs stressed the need to have high data protection standards in line with EU data protection rules and privacy by design in technical solutions as well as clear definitions of who is responsible for data collection and processing.

Next steps

Plenary will adopt the EP mandate for negotiations with the Council, which may include amendments, during its next session (26-29 April).

Background

On 17 March, the Commission tabled a proposal for a Regulation on a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate free movement in the EU – 2021/0068 (COD) and an accompanying proposal on third country nationals legally staying or residing in the EU (2021/0071 (COD). The Plenary agreed on 25 March to deal with the legislative proposals on the Digital Green Certificate under the urgent procedure (Rule 163), which allows for faster parliamentary scrutiny of Commission’s proposals, while fully respecting the Parliament’s democratic prerogatives.

Video

Shotlist content:

00:00:00 Title
00:00:05 Exterior shots of the EP, Brussels
00:00:10 Cutaways (4 shots)

00:00:24 SOUNDBITE (French), Didier REYNDERS, European Commissioner for Justice,Our proposal is concentrated on three types of certificate: on vaccination against Covid-19, on a negative test result, or if you have recovered after being infected with Covid 19. The certificate will be free of charge and it will be available on paper or on a digital form.

00:00:48 SOUNDBITE (French), Didier REYNDERS, European Commissioner for Justice,I would like to clarify that this is not a vaccination passport, as I’ve often heard it called. Our proposal aims to clarify that vaccination cannot be a precondition for free movement.

00:01:06 SOUNDBITE (English), Didier REYNDERS, European Commissioner for Justice,The proposal has nothing to do with internal border controls. To the contrary, our intention is to facilitate the easing of the current restrictions to allow safe, free movement until the end of the pandemic.

00:01:24 SOUNDBITE (English), Didier REYNDERS, European Commissioner for Justice,Every EU citizens should have the right to receive a certificate regardless of a vaccine administered. Indeed, it cannot be excluded that some vaccines currently only used on an emergency basis at member state level will at some point receive a central marketing authorisation at EU level. I’m thinking of Sputnik, for example, which cis urrently under review by EMA.

00:01:53 SOUNDBITE (English), Didier REYNDERS, European Commissioner for Justice,The principle of data minimisation is fully taken into account as the certificates will include a limited set of information.

00:02:02 SOUNDBITE (English), Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR (S&D, ES), LIBE Chair, We’ve got to make sure that the instrument is fully respectful with the values of the Union, including the rights enshrined in the treaty and most importantly, equality before the law, non-discrimination so that those who have the certificate will have the advantage to evade or to escape the additional restrictions. But those who do not have the certificate will always, will always be secure in their right and in their possibility to apply for the third choice of the certificate, which is actually having the negative test of covid
00:02:39 SOUNDBITE (English), Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR (S&D, ES), LIBE Chair, That is why we expect the data protection authority vigilant that by no means the data which are to be stored by the member states while issuing the certificates are not deviated, are not diverted for any other purpose than enhancing free movement.
00:02:57 SOUNDBITE (English), Jeroen LENAERS (EPP, NL),It is the duty, the responsibility of member states to decide what the conditions are for entering their territory. But it’s our duty here in this European Parliament to make sure that our citizens have a quick and an easy and a trustworthy way to show that they fulfil those conditions, that we don’t end up with 27 different systems, that we have one clear and simple system to show that they either are vaccinated or they are recovered or they have done a test.

00:03:25 SOUNDBITE (English), Sophia IN ‘T VELD (Renew, NL),The Ccommission still allows member states to impose additional requirements, like quarantine or other measures. We think that that should be excluded because otherwise you defeat the purpose of having such a certificate.

00:03:39 SOUNDBITE (Italian), Annalisa TARDINO (ID, IT),I am especially thinking at the citizens coming from the outermost regions and those with lowIncome, who might be penalised. It won’t be easy for them to get a test from an pragmatic or financial perspective.

00:03:52 SOUNDBITE (English), Tineke STRIK (Greens/EFA, NL),We have also brought ou support to the initiative because we we see it as a way, as an instrument to harmonise or to help harmonise the lifting of the border controls. It may prevent chaos and it may also prevent discrimination.

00:04:10 SOUNDBITE (Italian), Nicola PROCACCINI (ECR, IT),For us, it is vital, it is a vital instrument to allow these situations to unfold. And we very much support the notion and we hope it can be widely implemented as soon as possible.

00:04:25 SOUNDBITE (English), Wojciech WIEWIOROWSKI, European Data Protection Supervisor,We have also highlighted that the application of the proposed regulation must be strictly limited to this covid crisis and that restrictions imposed shall not apply to other emergencies after the ongoing pandemic is over.

00:04:42 SOUNDBITE (English), Wojciech WIEWIOROWSKI, European Data Protection Supervisor,Amongst the lessons we learnt from covid-19 crisis is that the respect of fundamental rights must be our guiding light. Europeans have a right to move, have a right to travel, but they also have a right that their data is used to prove their commitment to make Europe healthy and safe the continent.

00:05:06 Cutaways (5 shots)
00:05:25 End

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