The majority of EU countries should be technically ready for COVID-19 certificates by the first week of June ahead of their official launch expected by the end of that month, an EU official told EURACTIV.
The green digital certificates were proposed last month by the European Commission as a way to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The document, which may be in digital or paper format, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus, have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the disease.
While the EU lawmakers are starting the inter-institutional negotiations to seal the final legal text of the measures, simultaneously the technical side of the certificates is being developed.
This was confirmed by an EU official on Friday who, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the technical side is “marching in parallel” with the negotiation talks between the European Parliament and the EU ministers, as time is short.
The goal is to have the certification system up and running before the summer, as the whole operation is mostly conceived to save the holiday season and the struggling European tourism sector.
The system has to be ready when the legislation will be published to avoid delays, the EU official stressed, adding that it is expected to be operational and legally valid all over Europe by 26 June.
Member states have been divided into three groups based on their preparedness to start system testing.
A first group of 20 countries including France, Italy, Spain and Germany will start technical checks to interconnect the systems from the second week of May, while another group of less ready member states will start their testing later in May.
The third, last, group should start around the middle of June.
“We check everything, we check that the system is validated changing the keys, we check the whole setup, and then we declare that the connection works. So that’s why they are divided into groups” explained the EU official.
The budget for this initiative reaches around about €40-45 million, almost a third of the cost spent on the system itself.
On Thursday (29 April) European lawmakers adopted their negotiating position on the European Commission’s proposal for the digital green certificates, paving the way for what is likely to be a tough inter-institutional negotiation with the Council representing the 27 member states.
While the EU is working on the legal basis of the initiative, simultaneously the technical side of the certificates is being developed.
[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna and Josie Le Blond]