Press play to listen to this article The European Commission wants to restart travel within the EU and beyond with what it calls a ‘digital green certificate’ proving you’ve had your shot, said President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this week. The purpose of the certificates, von der Leyen wrote to member countries on Friday, “is to ensure that where people can enjoy free movement without risk to public health, they should be able to do so. “The ‘digital green certificate’ will be designed to facilitate free movement and to ensure that, although some restrictions on free movement may remain in place, these will only be used when justified and to the extent necessary”, she wrote in the letter. by POLITICO. The idea should not be confused with the green pass that Israel launched to allow vaccinated people to return to concert halls and bars: Brussels has its say on free movement, but use of a certificate for such national purposes would go to EU countries, argued the Commission. . But even without straying into the territory of this Member State, the Commission must overcome the doubts of EU governments and the very disparate vaccination strategies, technical complications, confidentiality issues and moral dilemmas. Here’s what we know so far: What’s the plan? The Commission’s legislative proposal is expected on March 17. It’s soon, but most of the details have yet to be completed. The Commission gauged the first thoughts of EU countries on Wednesday, during a debate that several diplomats described as chaotic. “There is a profound lack of clarity on what the pass really is,” said a national diplomat. What is certain, however, is that the Commission wants the green pass to list not only proof of vaccination, but also test results and information. on a virus recovery. Who pushed the idea? The plan is particularly important for southern European countries dependent on tourism such as Spain, Malta, Cyprus and Greece. out of necessity, a fundamental priority for all of us, ”Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the first to champion the idea, wrote to von der Leyen in January. Countries are in no mood to wait: Cypriot Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said on Thursday that vaccinated Britons will be welcomed into the country without restrictions from May; Spain and Greece are also looking for a “green corridor”. Other countries have spoken in favor as well: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz lobbied for a digital green certificate during a video meeting of EU leaders last week. Denmark and Sweden have both announced plans to develop a certificate to resume travel; Estonia is working on a pilot project for global vaccine certificates with the World Health Organization. Are all EU countries on board? EU leaders agreed last week that work on a “common approach to vaccination certificates” should continue, but it’s a lukewarm endorsement that leaves a lot of leeway for private and public doubts. “I will not accept a system which conditions access to such and such a country on a certificate,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday. The EU should avoid a scenario where countries each develop their own system, he said, but “such a document should not give specific rights to people who have been vaccinated”. Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès adopted a similar point of view, stressing on Monday that the principle of non-discrimination is “more fundamental than ever”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said last week that a vaccination certificate cannot be the ‘only’ solution to authorizing travel because, for example, there is still no coronavirus vaccine available for minors. “Not only those who have a vaccination certificate will be allowed to travel,” said Merkel, adding that a negative PCR test would continue to be an alternative. While no one is against the idea in principle, there are practical and ethical concerns, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. The “preliminary question,” he added, is whether vaccinated travelers could still transmit the disease. “The initial reports are not negative, but by no means conclusive.” Will it be ready by summer? EU leaders agreed on a “uniform” and “interoperable” vaccine certificate for medical purposes in January. The new proposal to use it for travel would add to that, a Commission spokesperson said this week. But if the EU wants to get an operational vaccine certificate by the summer, it will have to crack. EU countries must implement the uniform certificate in their health systems and at borders, while the Commission must build a ‘bridge’ to link national systems – which von der Leyen says will take at least three month; a document sent to country delegations already mentioned the prospect of a four-month deadline. If past experience is any indication, creating such a gateway for different national immunization database systems to exchange information will be a difficult task. When EU countries developed their individual coronavirus infection tracking apps last year, some countries chose very different technological solutions that made data exchange difficult, if not impossible. “An EU system can only work if the respective national systems are in place on time,” von der Leyen wrote to member states on Friday, calling for “swift implementation” of past decisions and ” rapid adoption ”of the new proposal. . Certificates could be a “powerful boost for our citizens and their free movement,” she concluded. Should I trade my privacy for a vacation? Von der Leyen said the green passes would respect data protection, security and privacy. But European data protection regulators don’t seem excited about the idea. The Belgian regulator said the stated purpose of storing data on those vaccinated and details of how that data would be shared are vague. The regulator is also concerned that the authorities will keep this data for too long. European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski called the idea of an immunity passport “extreme”, also saying that “even the name turns me off a little”. The French data regulator has said it is possible to implement digital green passes while also having them adhere to EU data protection rules, but it is highly likely that protection activists from privacy bring legal action. Will all vaccines reach the grade? With more and more countries breaking their ranks with the EU’s common vaccine strategy, this poses a headache for the planned roll-out of the vaccine certificate: what about Slovak or Hungarian citizens who have received the Russian vaccine Sputnik, or in the case of Hungary now also the Chinese vaccine Sinovac? Can these vaccines be admitted for the EU wide certificate even if the vaccines have not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency? The European Commission does not appear to have an answer to these questions yet, as a spokesperson said it was too early to answer them. But there are clear doubts – even in countries that administer the sputnik jab to their citizens. Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok told reporters on Tuesday that in his opinion unregistered vaccines should not have the same value as registered vaccines. He added that people should be warned of such a risk. This is a debate that some EU countries believe could distract from the main priority: getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible. EU countries “want more vaccines and not more damage,” a diplomat said. Are there any equity issues with vaccine passports? The current limited vaccine supplies – not only in Europe but around the world – are a major reason the World Health Organization is urging not to make vaccination a travel requirement at this time, although the decision is to see again in a few months. The Parliamentary Committee of the Council of Europe, a human rights body, also drew a (non-binding) red line around vaccine certificates in January, saying they are only suitable for tracking efficacy and side effects. The rapporteur of this file, French MP Jennifer de Temmerman, warned that such passports could create a whole new category of haves and have-nots, depending on their vaccination status. And given the pace of vaccination in her country at the moment, she noted that at this point, the right to travel would primarily rest with residents of nursing homes. However, it’s not as if anyone in the EU is able to fully exercise their freedom of movement just yet, argued Camino Mortera-Martinez, senior researcher at the Center for European Reform. “We are not getting out of a normal situation,” she said. The unvaccinated would not face discrimination, Mortera-Martinez argued, because they would still be allowed to travel under limited circumstances – it would simply be easier for those who were vaccinated. Will it actually work to reduce transmission rates? We do not know. This is the other reason why the WHO is not yet buying into the idea. There are still “critical unknowns regarding the effectiveness of vaccination in reducing transmission,” the United Nations health body said in its latest position paper. Although vaccines clearly prevent symptoms, for example, it is not yet certain whether people without symptoms can still transmit the virus. We also don’t know how long before travel people should be vaccinated, or whether people who have antibodies after recovering from COVID-19 should be exempt from the requirements. Hanne Cokelaere, Sarah Wheaton, Hans von der Burchard, Saim Saeed, Jillian Deutsch, Jacopo Barigazzi, Rym Momtaz.