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EU Parliament approves privacy-friendly deal on COVID Certificates

With a broad majority in the final vote, the European Parliament ratified the regulation on COVID-19 travel certificates, aiming at restoring freedom of movement in the EU during the pandemic. The European Pirates Delegation in the Greens/EFA group was able to incorporate significant data protection safeguards into the regulation, which will come into effect on 1 July 2021. However, in negotiations with Commission and Council, the Parliament had to give up on its call for free testing for EU citizens.

The privacy-friendly COVID-19 certificates are going to document whether travelers have been tested, vaccinated or carry antibodies. After the regulation comes into effect on 1 July 2021, Member States have six weeks to implement the law, which will be valid for one year. In the negotiations for the certificate, the European Pirates Delegation successfully advocated for a paper-based alternative and decentralized data registers. While the Parliament had to give up its position on obligatory free testing, the Commission will provide at least €100 million to Member States for procuring tests.

Mikuláš Peksa, Czech MEP and Chairperson of the European Pirates, comments:

“We are glad that further data processing by the verifier is not allowed. Also, the electronic signatures on the certificates themselves will be secure and there is no risk of their misuse. With this deal, antibodies, vaccination and a test will have the same weight on the travel pass. Unfortunately, the certificate still leaves room for Member States to discriminate citizens who cannot afford testing. We therefore call on Pirate organizations in the member states to monitor the situation closely and, if necessary, apply pressure on the respective governments.”

German Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer comments:

“We were able to successfully ensure that the certificate meets high data protection standards. Medical data may not be stored when it is scanned and travel movements cannot be tracked. There is a right to choose between a digital and a paper certificate. No single passport is created, but each test and vaccination is certified separately. Unfortunately, member states can continue to operate national central vaccination registers at their choice, although these encourage function creep and violate the right to informational self-determination.”

Marcel Kolaja, Czech MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, comments:

“After months of negotiations, this deal is a fair compromise. I am glad that the final proposal does not allow tracing citizens when they present the certificate or collecting data on the European level. Vaccination is undoubtedly the way forward. However, we must be careful not to discriminate citizens who did not have a chance to get vaccinated. Hence, it would be fair that the Member States provide tests free of charge, so that there are equal conditions for all.”

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