The EU has moved one step closer to travel liberalization following the conclusion of the Council of Europe’s agreement with the European Parliament on “Green certificate” for the coronavirus, which has been the subject of many weeks of consultation.
A health passport certifies whether travelers have been vaccinated, tested negative, or immune to a previous infection with the virus.
A little more than a month is left before its entry into force, according to EU plans. However, despite the agreement between the two parties, a number of questions arise about how exactly this certificate will work.
How it works?
There are three types of certificates. One proves that we were vaccinated, the second confirms that the test result is negative, and the third certifies the immunity of those who have been ill in the past. The above documents will be provided in digital or printed form and will be available free of charge.
Can I travel without a certificate?
Yes. The document is not a prerequisite for the trip.
If I have a certificate, does this mean that I am exempted from quarantine or additional testing?
Not necessary. The agreement calls on member states to refrain from further restrictions such as quarantines and tests for certified travelers, but adds the phrase “if they are not commensurate with protecting public health.”
This means that EU countries have the right to impose restrictions if they deem it necessary. However, it is hoped that they will not, given the progress in vaccination.
Will I be charged for the test?
And it depends on the policy of each country. MEPs highlighted travelers’ right to free tests, warning that if the price is high, it means travel will be unavailable for some.
From the Commission, they pledged to allocate up to 100 million euros, and maybe more, to make tests cheaper, especially for citizens who need to travel abroad frequently. The Commission also wants to expand the use of cheaper antigen tests.
If I am still waiting for the second dose?
The vaccine dose will provide a certificate confirming that the citizen received the first dose, even if the selected drug has a second.
However, this does not guarantee that if he travels to another country, he will avoid testing or quarantine, which is left to the discretion of each individual member state, as the EU clarified yesterday.
Is the rapid antigen test sufficient?
There is a certificate confirming a negative antigen test result. However, again, whether or not this test is accepted depends on each country.
How long is the certificate valid?
Proof of previous illness (and therefore the presence of antibodies) is valid for 180 days depending on what was agreed. Currently, a citizen will be considered immune if he has a positive PCR test result confirming the presence of a previous infection. According to a spokesman for the commission, antibody tests are not accepted.
The agreement does not state how long a negative PCR result is valid for travel. The certificate is valid for 12 months.
What vaccines does it cover?
Four that have been formally approved by Coreper, namely AstraZeneca, BioNTech / Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
However, Member States will be able to unilaterally decide on other vaccines, such as Russia’s Sputnik, used in Hungary and adopted by the authorities of several European countries, such as Greece.
When will the certificates be ready and effective?
From July 1st, all member states must accept the European certificate. However, there is also a six-week transition period during which they will still be able to issue their own certificates.
Will Member States be ready in time?
The Commission is convinced that most states will be ready for technical training.
Some countries (eg Greece) have already “tested” their digital infrastructure for the project.
In addition, as it became known, from June 1, the process of issuing certificates for Greek citizens will begin.
What will apply to non-EU countries?
The system covers the 27 EU countries, as well as certificates issued by Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Work is also underway with Switzerland to recognize reciprocal certificates, Justice Commissioner Raiders said Friday, adding that “we are taking the same approach with the United Kingdom.”
The Commission also maintains contacts with other countries, including the United States, as well as with international organizations on certificate compatibility issues. When there is a “trust structure”, the Commission spokesman said, the EU can decide to recognize other certificates, but added: “We have not yet reached that decision.”
Are there other “benefits” for certificate holders?
And this is a national matter for the Member States, which will independently decide on the liberalization of other activities for the owners, such as access to restaurants, cinemas, etc.