The European Union wants digital green certificates to come into force by early summer, to facilitate EU citizens to travel safely during a pandemic.
The European Commission proposed digital green certificates in the European Parliament in mid-March, with the idea that they could be applicable at the beginning of summer. This will support the tourism industry and airlines.
„We want to be able to start the pilot project in early June and launch the whole system at the end of June,“ said Didier Reynders, the European commissioner for justice.
He presented the proposal for digital green certificates at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Speaking to MEPs, Didier Reynders emphasized:
„Our intention is to facilitate the easing of current restrictions to allow people to move safely and freely during the pandemic,“ he added.
The digital green certificate will facilitate safe free movement in the EU for all.
The Digital Green Certificate will cover three types of certificates –vaccination certificates, test certificates (negative test result), and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19.
The certificates will be issued in a digital form or on paper. Both will have a QR code that contains necessary key information as well as a digital signature to make sure the certificate is authentic.
The Commission will build a gateway and support Member States to develop software that authorities can use to verify all certificate signatures across the EU. No personal data of the certificate holders passes through the gateway, or is retained by the verifying Member State.
The green digital certificate can be used in EU countries. The attitude towards travellers in the EU should be like in their own country.
The introduction of such a document requires clarification of many issues. From being flexible enough to reflect the constant development of scientific knowledge about the coronavirus, through what the information from the certificates will be used for, to purely technical aspects of how they will be used and verified.
Didier Reynders listened first to the questions and then answered.
„The Commission leaves the door open for the use of these certificates for other potential diseases in the future or for similar diseases, or both. That shouldn’t be the case,“ said Jeroen Lenaers, an MEP from the Netherlands.
„The proposal makes it clear that personal data processed for the purpose of issuing the certificate should not be kept longer than necessary for its purpose, and in no case longer than the period during which the certificate can be used to exercise the right to free movement. As a result, there is a legal obligation to delete data when it is no longer needed and in any case after the end of the pandemic, when the certificates can no longer be used,“ said Didier Reynders.
“Speaking of facilitating free movement during a pandemic, you mentioned that it is likely that Member States may want to use the certificates for other purposes at national level,“ added Birgit Sippel, MEP from Germany, PACE.
„If a Member State wants to use the certificate for other purposes, I repeat, because there are questions about it, then any hypothetical national legislation allowing such use must also meet the requirements of necessity and proportionality and comply with the regulation for the protection of personal data,“ said Didier Reynders.
Sophie in ‘t Veld of Renew Europe questioned the claim that certificates would not be an obligatory condition for free movement.
„Commissioner, a philosophical remark. You say or the Commission says that this can never be a precondition for free movement. But let’s face it – in practice it will be. If you cannot show your certificate, you will be stopped at the border. It’s that simple, so let’s be honest, “ said Sophie in ‘t Veld.
Whether there will be discrimination against different people vaccinated, unvaccinated, or recovered from the virus was another sensitive issue for the European Commission.
„In order to prevent discrimination against persons who have not yet been vaccinated, the proposal regulates not only the issuance, verification and acceptance of an interoperable certificate, but also test certificates and certificates for persons who were ill and recovered from COVID-19. That way, all citizens should be able to take advantage of digital green certificates,“ said Didier Reynders.