Europe: Brussels will extend the application of the covid certificate until the summer of 2023 | Society

Civil protection employees, in a passenger control at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, on January 11.
Civil protection employees, in a passenger control at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, on January 11.CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON (EFE)

The European Commission plans to approve in the coming days, possibly this week, the legislative project to extend until the summer of 2023 the use of the covid digital certificate, the health pass created to facilitate the movements of European citizens. The document, which certifies whether a person has been vaccinated, has overcome the coronavirus or has tested negative in a diagnostic test, began to be used in July 2021 with a time frame limited to one year, as it is a measure linked to the health crisis, an extraordinary situation. But the Community Executive sees it necessary to extend its use for another 12 months, considering that, given the current context of the pandemic, it could continue to be a useful tool for the Member States, according to sources familiar with the proposal to EL PAÍS.

“It is not that we say that we want the certificate to exist for another year,” according to these same sources. “But we need to recognize that, with the current development of the pandemic, we may need to use it beyond a year. If the Member States continue to require it from citizens to facilitate travel, because there are health measures still imposed, we have to give them the option. It is not that we are asking countries to use it”, they argue.

The Commission plans to present the extension proposal for one more year, until June 30, 2023, along with other small modifications to the certificate, such as some gap related to diagnostic tests. The proposal must be accompanied by a report that justifies the need for the legislative amendments, which the Community Executive must have ready before March 31. Next, you must pass the mandatory legislative process before June 30, when the current term of validity of the covid certificate expires.

Europarliamentary sources assure that they have already been contacted by Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, to address the debate on the extension of the deadlines. “[El certificado] it is not destined to last forever, but to the extent that the EU instrument continues to be useful, it will be extended, ”say these sources.

The European document, whose technical name is the EU digital covid certificate, was created at a time when the vaccination strategy was gaining strength in the EU, as a shield against the cacophony of measures (quarantines, isolations, PCR tests before or after to travel, antigen tests…) imposed by the different Member States. The idea was that with a single document Europeans could demonstrate their health status and cross internal borders, while ensuring that restrictions could be lifted in a coordinated manner. The Twenty-seven, in any case, have retained the option of imposing restrictions on intra-community travellers, which they have used, for example, during the recent wave of the omicron variant.

The duration limited to 12 months was one of the battles of the European co-legislators (the European Parliament and the Council) during the negotiation of the certificate, an exceptional tool created for exceptional times that touches on very sensitive fundamental rights, such as freedom of movement, right to private and family life or data protection. The socialist MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, who led the discussions by the European Parliament, explained at the time of its approval that the commitment to limited time had been achieved in that legislative negotiation, but with the possibility of extending the term of application.

Another modification of the document came into force on Tuesday, which makes the extension of the validity of the covid certificate subject to the administration of a booster dose of the vaccine. Otherwise, the documents will be valid for nine months.

The Commission assures that the certificate “is a success story of the EU”, according to a statement last December, in which it was stated that up to that date (after just over six months of application) 807 million had been issued. of certificates in the EU, also establishing a global standard. “So far, 60 countries and territories from five continents have joined the system,” the note said.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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