March 17, 2021
FILE – The pandemic has been tough on the travel industry. This May 12, 2020, photo of a departure timetable board displays canceled flights at Brussels Airport in Brussels, with disruptions due mainly to COVID-19.
By Lisa Schlein | VOA News
PARIS – The European Union’s executive arm rolled out plans Wednesday for a green certificate to ensure COVID-19-safe travel across the 27-member grouping by June, even as the region grapples with an uptick of the pandemic and a slow vaccination rollout.
EU leaders will discuss the COVID-19 travel certificate plan during a summit next week. But European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen laid out the basics of the initiative, intended to boost summertime tourism, culture and other struggling sectors.
“It shows or states whether the person has either been vaccinated, or a recent negative test, or has recovered from COVID and thus antibodies,” she said. “Secondly, the certificate will make sure the results … or minimum set of data are mutually recognized in every member state.”
She said the certificate would help safely reinstate free movement within the bloc — a key issue compromised by the pandemic.
The idea of COVID-19 travel passes is controversial for a mix of reasons, including the fact relatively few EU citizens have been vaccinated. Brussels said the certificates did not aim to discriminate, would respect privacy and European laws and would be scrapped once the pandemic ended.
Some EU member states have already announced variations of the idea, including tourist-dependent Greece and Cyprus, which have announced a vaccine passport deal with Israel. But others are more wary.
Meeting in the French city of Montauban this week, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hailed the travel certificates as rebooting tourism, but French President Emmanuel Macron raised questions about them. Meanwhile, some EU citizens expressed concerns.
Despite assurances from Brussels, University of Bordeaux doctoral student Yoann Nabat, who specializes in policing and privacy issues, still worries the certificates risk violating citizens’ privacy rights because they display much more information than needed.
The proposed travel passes come as a number of EU countries confront a third wave of the pandemic, a dearth of vaccines and doubts about the AstraZeneca shot that is an important component of the EU’s vaccination strategy. Still, commission chief von der Leyen insisted the EU would meet its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by summer’s end.