As the current EU Digital Covid Certificate rules are set to expire on 30 June, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs voted in favour of a one-year extension of the scheme – until 30 June 2023.
The Digital Covid Certificate – allowing travellers to prove they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative for Covid-19 or recovered from an infection in the past six months – was adopted in June 2021 to facilitate free movement in the EU during the pandemic, for a limited period of 12 months.
“A year ago, we put in place the EU Digital Covid Certificate so that unilateral national restrictions would not endanger the right to free movement and equality,” said rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar of the Committee. “We wanted to prevent discrimination between countries of origin, and we wanted this regulation to be time-limited. However, we can only get rid of it once the pandemic is over,” he added.
Since it is not over yet, the validity of the scheme is being extended, and experts will evaluate the situation in six months’ time. “Now, people are again travelling across borders in Europe, which shows that the regulation is working.” Along with extending the validity of the Certificate until the end of June next year, the changes also enable member states to grant test certificates based on new types of antigen tests. MEPs stressed that member states should avoid additional restrictions for travellers with a Covid Digital Certificate, “ unless absolutely necessary.”
If additional restrictions are needed, they should be “limited and proportionate” and based on the latest scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the EU Health Security Committee. Additionally, the necessity and proportionality of the Certificate will be assessed six months after its extension, as MEPs want to drop the measure as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.
Now, the decision of the Civil Liberties Committee to open negotiations with the Council on the legislative proposal will be announced at the opening of next week’s plenary session in Strasbourg, which is expected to be just a formality. If there is an objection, however, the decision will be put to the vote on Thursday 5 May.