EU vaccine passport deal still elusive | Voice of America
ROME – Italy is “ready to welcome the world again,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said this week, confirming government plans to launch a COVID passport program by mid-month for tourists and others international travelers, allowing them to enter the country without quarantine.
But officials lack details on the program – although Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia said on Wednesday it would “be valid for everyone, also and especially for tourists from outside the EU”.
“All you need is a simple piece of paper certifying that you are following the rules”, and proof that either “you are vaccinated, you are immune because you have had the disease, or you have tested negative” , he told Sky news channel TG24. But it is not known exactly who certifies the vaccination.
Across tourism-dependent southern Europe, governments and businesses are desperate to welcome tourists again, hoping that a lucrative northern hemisphere summer can save restaurants and hotels from bankruptcy. Tourism represented 13% of Italy’s GDP before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
But politicians, analysts and the mainland travel industry fear that health will pass, which could be printed or stored digitally on a smartphone app, for those vaccinated and for those who have recovered from COVID-19 will eventually lend. confusing.
With the deal between EU member states remaining elusive on a block-scale digital system, the risk is that travelers end up having to navigate a mishmash of different referrals offered by different member states. Technical issues, including how to put national databases together, to largely political and confidentiality objections, undermine the EU’s ambition to have a laissez-passer accepted by all member states, and the program risks to be as chaotic as the deployment of vaccines by the bloc, fear analysts.
Last week, the European Commission said countries should open their borders to vaccinated non-EU travelers, while allowing each member state to decide what works best for them. The EU parliament also approved a bloc-wide program for COVID-19 passports, which were originally confusingly dubbed “digital green certificates.”
Some countries, including France, Denmark and Austria, are already going their own way and have announced or are in the process of pursuing plans to allow domestic travel or allow customers to visit hair salons, restaurants and public places. Denmark’s COVID-19 vaccine passport program is designed for use by its vaccinated citizens so that they can use them for unrestricted travel to other countries upon request.
Officials say all of these national passes could be reused for foreign travelers and could be aligned with a bloc-wide program if and when agreed and functioning.
The Spanish government has announced that foreign tourists will be welcome from June 9, if they hold a health pass. But many countries with stubbornly high infection rates and slower vaccine deployments remain anxious to announce specific dates for easing travel restrictions.
In addition, big, perhaps insurmountable, technical questions remain – both for national passes and for a bloc-wide digital passport. For the EU scheme, who will authorize the pass – a doctor, pharmacy or health center where the vaccine was administered? How will the different national applications and databases communicate with each other? The European Commission has launched a request to developers to come up with solutions for a centralized digital system.
And how will non-European travelers, who have been vaccinated in their own country, be able to log into the system and have their vaccinations confirmed to the satisfaction of the EU authorities? EU officials say developing a viable framework for the recognition of non-EU inoculation certificates is particularly difficult.
EU and US officials have had discussions over mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, but so far the Biden administration has been reluctant to consider a federal program, preferring to leave vaccine passports to the private sector. or to individual states.
Greece – where a quarter of the country’s population derives its income from tourism – with Iceland and Croatia have already started to open up to fully vaccinated travelers from the United States, Britain, Israel and the EU member states to visit without having to quarantine. Foreign visitors to Croatia can register their vaccinations online and receive a Croatian document in return.
European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has warned of the possibility of “fragmentation across Europe” if a deal remains elusive. “We would risk having a variety of documents that cannot be read and verified in other Member States. And we risk the spread of false documents, and with them, the spread of the virus and the distrust of citizens,” he said. he recently declared.
Some European lawmakers fear that the unvaccinated may face discrimination. Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin has also expressed concern that the continent is divided along a dividing line between the vaccinated and unvaccinated haves, limiting the freedom of people who have not yet received a vaccine. .
Estonia is working with the World Health Organization on a project to create a standardized electronic vaccination certification that the country hopes could become the “gold standard” and gain global recognition. But the WHO itself has expressed concerns about vaccine passports, fearing that those who have been vaccinated could still spread the virus.
There are also disagreements over the rules to apply to travelers who have received vaccines not approved by the European Medicines Agency, the EU entity that evaluates and monitors medicines. Hungarian officials reacted with anger this month to the European Parliament’s decision to deny automatic authorization of vaccines not approved by the EMA. Many Hungarians have received vaccines not approved by the EU.
Hungarian official Gergely Gulyás recently said that countries should accept each other’s vaccination certificates on the basis of reciprocity, and that if they refuse, “then on the basis of reciprocity Hungary will not accept the certificates. countries which do not accept those of Hungary “.