Debate ensues over the adoption of an EU-wide digital certificate and whether or not it might come out as discriminatory.
Some European leaders are contemplating the development of digital vaccine passports with the intent of opening the continent to tourism while others feel it can foster discrimination. Several countries are focused on an EU-wide approach rather than focussing on nations adopting their unilateral certificates. Others are concerned about that form of documentation bringing about discrimination. The idea, however noble, is further complicated by the spread of more contagious variants such as the English, Brazilian and South Africa.
27 of the EU leaders held an online meeting on Thursday during the kickstart of a 2-day summit on the pandemic. Countries that are heavily reliant on revenues from tourism such as Greece are strongly advocating for EU-wide vaccination certificates. Tourism makes up 25% of the country’s GDP. Athens has held talks with Britain on the use of the digital “Green Pass”. Israel has also adopted the issuing of certificates for those who have received covid-19 jabs. Tourism revenues have tanked in Greece, falling from €18bn is 2019 to €4bn.
The country’s tourism minister decided to vaccinate Britons across the country resulting in a negative test for Covid-19. Other countries supporting the EU-wide certificate are Bulgaria, Spain, and Austria. Vienna plans to go ahead in implementation if the EU does not want to go ahead. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, expressed doubt over the workability of such a measure would work. Part of her skepticism arose from the fact that setting up such as data monitoring regime at the borders would take 3 months at the very least. Germany which seems to be undergoing its third wave is facing complaints from neighboring Czech and Austria who are against its unilateral border restrictions on movement imposed on their nations.
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Countries such as Belgium and France have expressed doubts over the viability of the vaccine certificate regime. Emmanuel Macron, the French president expressed that a balance must be found between ethical questions which need to be resolved. He argues it will be disadvantageous to the young who fall at the back of the line of the vaccination queue.
France has rapidly beefed up its Covid-19 measures on its German Moselle border area. Cross Border workers will have to present negative PCR tests. President Klaus Iohannis of Romania described the vaccine issue as a matter that has split EU leaders. Opinions are shaped by who has and who is yet to receive the vaccine.
Other EU countries are working on solutions that develop unique ways of showing those who have been vaccinated. Denmark is also working on a digital passport that documents a travelers vaccination status. This is compatible with future EU-wide schemes. Finland and Sweden are also considering digital passports. From the first of March, Hungary will issue physical vaccination certificates to citizens who have been inoculated or just recovered from Covid-19.
The UK will also consider whether the adoption of certificates will help reopen the economy. However, the idea of a travel certificate will depend on the understanding of the efficacy of the vaccines against the variants. Meanwhile, the UK is closely working with the WHO to create an international travel framework.