Vaccination passports: heated debate – how Brussels wants to save the summer vacation

IIs it an accident or just a distorted perception of reality in the Brussels bubble? In his letter of invitation to the European heads of government for the video summit this week, EU Council President Charles Michel does not even mention the subject of vaccination records or vaccination certificates. The return of old freedoms after a year of the corona pandemic is one of the most important issues for Europeans.

The “green passport” in Israel has already become a symbol of freedom for many people in Europe. The digital vaccination certificate is used there as an entrance ticket for the theater, shops and, if possible, long-distance travel. However, unlike in the EU, more than 70 percent of Israelis are vaccinated.

The majority of Germans want a digital vaccination certificate

According to a survey by the Bitkom digital association, almost two thirds of all Germans would also like to have a digital vaccination certificate as soon as they are vaccinated. The EU countries Denmark and Sweden have already announced that they will introduce such a certificate on June 1st.

But such a pass only makes sense if it not only ensures freedom of movement in your own country, but also allows international travel. To do this, however, the EU governments would first have to come to an agreement and mutually recognize such a document.

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That is why the expectations for the Corona video summit on Thursday are high – even if the topic is not officially on the agenda. According to WELT information, it can be considered certain that the EU Commission, in cooperation with the member states, will present a solution in the coming weeks that will save the summer vacation in 2021: Anyone who wants to travel to Spain, Greece or Austria as a German can do so Do it in summer at the latest.

The solution will be a combination of a certificate for vaccinated people and PCR testing for non-vaccinated people. “I am sure that anyone who wants to can go on vacation in the summer – including abroad,” said Peter Liese (CDU), the most important health politician in the EU Parliament.

It is necessary that the new vaccination certificates are “applicable across borders, if possible outside the EU” and at the same time be forgery-proof. “Evidence of a vaccination should enable people to regain their freedom rights from late spring on,” Liese emphasized.

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But there is still a long way to go before then. In the run-up to the video summit, there were sometimes heated internal debates between the EU governments about how to proceed. Germany, the Netherlands and partly also France are still on the brakes.

“The debate is premature because it is not yet clear whether vaccinated people can pass the disease on or not,” says Franziska Brantner, member of the Bundestag (Greens). A first preliminary study from Israel came to the conclusion that the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer prevents the transmission of infections to others by almost 90 percent.

However, numerous countries such as Greece, Belgium, Malta, Cyprus, Hungary and Austria are accelerating. Of course, you need a “well-founded database” as to whether a vaccination really prevents the transmission of the coronavirus, said Karoline Edtstadler (ÖVP), Minister for Europe in the cabinet of Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, in an interview with WELT.

“Mobility is the key”

“At the same time, we have to think ahead and advance the technical preparatory work for a recognized proof of vaccination. Mobility is the key to get the economy going again after the pandemic has been contained, ”said the minister. Austria therefore advocates “EU-wide recognized vaccination certificates in order to create the same travel standards and make mobility easier again”.

However, people who have not yet been vaccinated should not be discriminated against when traveling. “That is why the detection of a negative PCR or antigen test and the wearing of protective masks will remain our reality for longer,” said Edtstadler.

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At the end of January, the EU countries had already agreed on the information that a vaccination certificate should contain. In addition to personal details, this also includes detailed information on the vaccination status. The EU Commission has already presented guidelines for the creation of an “eHealth Network” for vaccination records.

So far, they are only intended to be used for medical purposes. However, they can be extended to all areas of everyday life. An EU-wide, fully digitized, forgery-proof “green card” like the one in Israel will not yet exist this summer – because apart from Estonia and some Scandinavian countries, the digitization of documents is still in the Member States, especially in Eastern Europe Infancy.

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In addition, the national vaccination certificates are also interoperable – and thus only become a European document. It is therefore also conceivable that a European vaccination certificate may still appear in paper form in the summer. This is also expressly provided for in the guidelines of the EU Commission.

How smoothly this goes is open. Manfred Weber (CSU), group leader of the conservative EPP in the European Parliament: “It threatens to become a bureaucratic nightmare if people are vaccinated now and we have to issue certificates to everyone who has already been vaccinated.”

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