European Western Balkans

EC: Member states will be required to accept certificates for EU-approved vaccines, but they can also accept other vaccines

European Commission; Photo: Pixabay

BRUSSELS – Digital Green Certificates, which some media have dubbed “COVID passports”, will serve as proof of vaccination that will enable citizens to travel with fewer restrictions within the EU. All Member States will be required to recognize the certificates that will be received by the persons vaccinated with jabs  approved in the EU, but individual Member States may decide to accept other vaccines in addition.

This is a proposal announced today by the European Commission with an aim of facilitating free travel within the EU. This is a temporary measure that will be in force until the World Health Organization declares the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to this proposal, the certificate will be given to EU citizens, and will be open to citizens of Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway, as well as citizens of other countries who have a residence in the EU and the right to travel to other member states. Third-country nationals not residing in the EU, including Western Balkan citizens, are not included in this mechanism.

“We continue working towards international convergence with other partners,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The European Commission has stated that Member States should issue vaccination certificates regardless of the type of COVID-19 vaccine.

“Where Member States accept proof of vaccination to waive certain public health restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they would be required to accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates issued under the Digital Green Certificate system. However, this obligation would be limited to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation. Member States have the option to accept vaccination certificates issued in relation to other vaccines,” the statement reads.

As the European Commission pointed out, digital certificates will not be a pre-condition for free movement. In order not to discriminate against people who have not been vaccinated, the digital green certificate will include a negative test result or a confirmation that the person has recovered from COVID-19. It will be available for free, in digital or paper format.

“The function of this certificate is to show whether a person has been vaccinated, has a negative test or has recovered from COVID-19 and has antibodies,” said EC President Ursula von der Leyen.

The European Commission emphasized that the digital green certificate aims to facilitate free movement within the EU and alleviate current restrictions, and not to restrict the right to free movement and the right to travel.

“Certificate verification as such cannot justify the temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders, and such controls are not necessary for Member States to apply the digital green certificate. As the experience of the first months of the pandemic has shown, the uncoordinated and hasty reintroduction of controls at internal borders does not stop the virus, but causes social and economic disturbances, which we are responsible for avoiding as much as possible. Such controls must remain the last resort, in accordance with EU law,” the European Commission said.

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