EU lawmakers backed on Thursday (5 May) a proposal by the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee to extend until June 2023 the EU’s digital COVID certificate, set to expire this summer. EURACTIV France reports.
The decision was endorsed with 432 votes in favour, 130 against and 23 abstentions.
The Parliament’s Eurosceptic group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) group were opposed.
According to the adopted text, antigenic and PCR tests will be sufficient for the digital certificate to be issued, whereas the original text only cited PCR tests.
Lawmakers also decided that the digital COVID certificate would be the only condition for entry into member states, unless adding other conditions is “absolutely necessary”, a parliamentary press release said.
Were states to add new conditions, these would have to be based on the most recent health recommendations of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the Health Security Committee.
In six months, lawmakers will consider whether the certificate still needs to be maintained, based on expert advice regarding the health situation.
In force since June 2021
The COVID certificate currently in force was adopted on 20 June 2021, with the aim of facilitating travel for citizens across the EU as countries set up border restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.
In most cases, travellers were required to be fully vaccinated, including with a booster dose, or present a negative PCR test, yet restrictions could still vary between countries.
The COVID certificate harmonised these rules.
Now, with restrictions lifted in most countries and infection rates falling, MEPs have decided to maintain the certificate to ensure that EU citizens can move freely.
An initiative from the LIBE committee
On 28 April, the LIBE committee endorsed two reports calling for the extension of the COVID certificate to ensure that free movement is guaranteed across the EU regardless of the pandemic.
“A year ago, we created the EU digital COVID certificate to ensure unilateral national restrictions do not threaten the right to free movement and equality. We wanted to avoid discrimination between countries of origin,” said Spanish MEP Juan Aguilar, LIBE Committee chair and member of the Socialists and Democrats group.
EU countries have now lifted almost all restrictions and contamination rates have dropped significantly, yet lifting the COVID certificate was only foreseen if the health situation permitted such a move.
But because the current situation does not quite allow for this, MEPs voted to extend the certificate and ask experts “to assess the situation in six months”.
“For the time being, we see that citizens are travelling again all over Europe, which proves that the regulation is working,” added Aguilar.
Now that the Parliament has backed the proposed extension, negotiations between the European Commission and the member states in the Council can start.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]