Trilogue negotiations on Covid certificates are progressing fast

Photo: EU Ana Paula Zacarias.

At their first physical General Affairs Council under the Portuguese Presidency, held in Brussels on Tuesday, the EU affairs ministers discussed the state of play on the Covid-19 coordination with a focus on the vaccination campaign, the ongoing work on digital green certificates, and the epidemiological situation and travel restrictions.

 So far, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission held a two trilogue meetings on the digital green certificate, the first on 3 May and the second on 11 May, with a view to conclusion in June.

The document is intended to facilitate safe and free movement during this pandemic by providing proof that a person has either been vaccinated against SARS-CoV, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid-19.

The ongoing technical work on Covid-19 interoperable digital certificates is part of the preparations for a common approach to the future gradual lifting of restrictions. Work is also ongoing on the revision of the Council Recommendation on travel from third countries.

As Ana Paula Zacarias, Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, stated during the news conference following the meeting, negotiations on the digital green certificate are progressing in a constructive spirit.

She expressed hope that an interinstitutional agreement can be reached soon. “This would be an important contribution to get Europe on the move again,” she underlined.

MEP in their negotiating position on the proposal for a “EU COVID-19 certificate” said it should be in place for 12 months and not longer. Lawmakers also urged that EU countries should ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing.

Concerning the price of the testing, the Council says, that in a free market such requirement could not be imposed, but they will try to look at possibilities for a cheaper price.

Legislators insisted also that holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing.

The legal framework of the digital green certificate consists of two legislative proposals of the Council. The first concerns EU citizens and members of their families and the second concerns third-country nationals legally staying or legally residing in the territory of a member state.

According to these proposals, it will be possible to use the certificate across all EU Member States. It will also be introduced in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The digital green certificate will also be open to initiatives being developed globally.

Among the key amendments introduced in the legislative texts by the Council, is a reference to the fact that a digital green certificate is not a precondition to exercise free movement rights and it is not a travel document, in order to stress the principle of non-discrimination, in particular towards non-vaccinated persons.

A new article on the international dimension of the certificate was added, clarifying the treatment to be given to certificates issued to Union citizens and their family members as well as legally-staying or residing third-country nationals vaccinated in third countries.

The data protection provisions have been strengthened throughout the text of the main regulation, in particular on the basis of the joint opinion of the European data protection supervisor and the European data protection board and the text

includes a transitional provision to ensure that EU countries can continue using the systems currently have in place during a short period of six weeks after the entry into force of the main regulation and until the certificate framework is fully operational on their territory.

The text of the draft regulation contains as well a provision enabling Ireland and the other member states to mutually accept certificates issued to third country nationals based on reciprocity.

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