Brussels, Belgium: The European Parliament and EU member states reached a deal Thursday paving the way for a Covid-19 certificate that will help open up travel in Europe for the key summer season.
“We have white smoke,” tweeted EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders after the end of a fourth negotiating session between MEPs and diplomats from Portugal, which holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.
The deal will allow for anybody living in the EU’s 27 countries to be able to get a digital health pass to display their vaccination status, results of Covid-19 tests, or whether they have recovered from a coronavirus infection.
It is seen as a key tool to save the European summer vacation period, allowing countries dependent on tourists to reopen to visitors less likely to bring Covid with them.
“This is an important step towards restarting EU free movement as safely as possible while providing clarity and certainty for our citizens,” said EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
Other countries around the world have moved in the same direction, including Israel with its “green pass”, and Britain, which has told its citizens that some international travel will be permitted in a week with an app from its National Health Service (NHS).
The EU’s health pass will initially be used only for travel within the European bloc.
But the European Commission is working on it being mutually recognized with certificates from non-EU countries, particularly the United States.
France, Malta, and the Netherlands are among the countries piloting the EU’s pass.
The test involves making sure that digital keys used to authenticate the passes work correctly, and that it is interoperable across different countries’ systems.
The pass, while mostly designed to be accessed via a smartphone app, also has to be able to be authenticated in paper form. The technology was developed by German companies T-Systems and SAP.
Details of the arrangement between the European Parliament and EU member states were not immediately available.
MEPs want Covid tests for travel to be free or price-capped, and for EU countries to be barred from imposing quarantines on health pass holders.
But the European Commission says those issues should be left up to member states, which retain responsibility in health matters.
The certificate is on the agenda of the summit of European heads of state and government scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Brussels.
Thursday’s agreement will then have to be formally approved by a full session of the European Parliament, whose plenary is scheduled for June 7-10 in Strasbourg.