COVID-19 vaccination certificates are “important but not sufficient” to ensure the resumption of free movement within the EU during the pandemic, EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said on Tuesday (19 January), adding instead that rapid tests should also be introduced.
“I am very attached to Senegal in Africa and for many years […] I had to present a certificate to show that I was vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. Of course, this certificate was important to ensure confidence and free movement”, Breton said in an interview with several media including EURACTIV’s partner Lusa.
Nevertheless, “this is not enough, and we cannot depend on it alone,” he said, adding that the EU should continue to work on issues such as rapid tests, the so-called antigen tests.
“Perhaps if we were to adopt easy and rapid tests that gave a fairly reliable result in five minutes, even without vaccination, it would be a good idea for those who want to catch a plane,” he suggested.
“I’m not saying that will happen, but I think it’s important to have more than one option on the table,” he said.
The EU is discussing the creation of digital vaccination certificates to ensure the resumption of free movement within the EU despite the fact that the pandemic is not yet under control, which would avoid issues such as the obligation to quarantine or perform PCR diagnostic tests before travelling to certain countries.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pleaded in favour of a vaccination passport on 12 January, calling for the European Commission to introduce a vaccination certificate, in an attempt to revive Greece’s very tourist-dependent economy.
The measure, already supported by Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa, will be on the table at the virtual summit of European leaders next Thursday, and the EU Council chief Charles Michel has called for a common approach to such certification.
However, not every EU country agrees with this. France and Romania have so far expressed their disagreement to use a vaccination certificate to facilitate travel.
Paris said it was still too early to have such a discussion. “Until we have entered a phase of vaccination for the general public, telling people their activity is limited while access to vaccines is not generalised doesn’t work,” Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune said recently.
For its part, Bucharest described the proposal as divisive. “I do not think it is a good idea. There must be a vaccination certificate, but it must be used for medical reasons, not for travel,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said.
The European Commission proposed on Tuesday that member states should reach a common position on mutually recognised vaccination certificates by the end of this month so that they can be rapidly used in health systems in the EU.
“There is not just one answer,” Breton said, reiterating the suggestion of “quick, cheap tests”.
As for the vaccination process, which has been taking place in the EU since late December, the French Commissioner said: “My position as a politician is that we will have sufficient capacity for vaccination in the single market, using different technologies.”
“We will emerge from this crisis thanks to solidarity, science and organisation and logistics. Science will play an important role, but science, when it comes to testing, is quite complex,” Breton added.
[Ana Matos Neves | Lusa.pt – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com]