The Brief, powered by Eurochild – Being proactive in a slow-moving Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/FELIPE TRUEBA]

When Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis first proposed to have a European vaccination certificate a few months ago, to facilitate life and travel across the continent, the first EU reactions – especially from Germany and France – were dismissive and even ironic.

Some said it was too early to discuss the topic considering that the general population does not have access yet to vaccines; others cautioned that the vaccines’ effectiveness against new mutations was still not known and so on.

Fast-forward a few weeks and the climate has changed completely. On 17 March, the European Commission will make a legislative proposal for the so-called “Green pass”, following a mandate to do so by the EU leaders.

In Athens, which depends heavily on summer tourism, they knew the technical part would be too complex for the current EU decision-making structure to move quickly. So, they raised the issue relatively early.

The timing of the proposal had as a primary objective to avoid a repetition of the fiasco with masks at the start of the pandemic, when Italy’s desperate calls for masks got zero response from other EU partners.

Of course, Greece’s primary objective was to save the next tourism season, but in practice, it is also a vital policy issue that has exposed Europe’s mediocre policymaking.

We didn’t have to wait long. The first hurdle – still under discussion – is whether vaccines not authorised by the EU would still be recognised in the “green pass”. The jury is still out…

Should Russian and Chinse vaccines be rejected, the entire Balkan region, which is mainly being vaccinated with those jabs, would be out of the picture, after they were completely and, some would say, shamefully, marginalised by the EU on the vaccines’ deliveries. 

Mitsotakis could have taken unilateral action but he rightly sought an EU-wide solution.

In the end, the proposal was changed from “Vaccination Certificate” to “Green Pass”, downplaying further the original initiative from Greece, which launched the debate in good time for Europeans to be able to sort these things out early on, rather than a couple of days before the summer starts.

The “wait and see” approach or hiding behind the ‘democratic and inclusive’ procedures narrative has been the norm of EU decision making for years. This has resulted in many casualties and missed opportunities along the way, and the latest – the one we can all feel – are extreme delays in vaccination roll-out.

This should not be the message to small and pro-active EU members.

Small countries should be heard, and they should be heard before things escalate. Sometimes they can see things that big ones, blinded by their prestigious know-how, tend to ignore

Anything else will turn the EU into an elitist club of the rich and powerful and the disgruntled ‘also-rans’.

A message from Eurochild: Will the Next Generation EU live up to its name? The Next Generation EU should live up to its name and put children – the next generation – at the heart of the European recovery. In Mandela’s words: “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” Read more.

The Roundup

Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) suffered record defeats in two regional elections amid voter anger over a sluggish coronavirus vaccine roll-out and a party corruption scandal that has left Merkel’s party reeling as it decides who to put forward as her potential successor ahead of September’s nationwide poll.

The European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has admitted that mistakes were made in Brussels when COVID-19 vaccines were being ordered and suggested taking stock “at the end of the pandemic” of what went wrong and what was done right.

Germany on Monday halted the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine after reported blood clotting incidents in Europe, saying that a closer look was necessary. Earlier on Sunday, Ireland and the Netherlands became the latest countries to suspend their rollouts.

Portugal is optimistic an agreement can soon be reached on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the country’s Agriculture Minister Maria do Céu Antunes told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

Following lengthy and at times contentious negotiations, the European Parliament and Council agreed on the Connecting Europe Facility, making available over €30 billion in funding for transport, digital, and energy projects.

The €2 billion of financial aid to boost energy renovation in France’s COVID recovery plan may not be enough to compensate for the abolition of so-called “energy saving certificates” – or CEEs.

Look out for…

  • EU-Georgia Association Council
  • EU finance and health ministers meet virtually
  • European Parliament’s SEDE, DEVE, ENVI, REGI AGRI CULT, LIBE, FEMM Committees
  • Greece, Turkey hold second round of talks on situation in eastern Mediterranean

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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