After weeks of negotiations, the EU Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on COVID-19 travel certificates, aiming at restoring freedom of movement in the EU during the pandemic. Significant data protection safeguards, advocated by the European Pirates delegation in the Greens/EFA group, were accepted in the talks. However, Member States will have the option to impose quarantine on travelers, and they may still need to pay for coronavirus tests.
The now privacy-friendly COVID-19 certificates are going to document whether travelers have been tested, vaccinated or carry antibodies. Even though the Parliament had to give up its call for free coronavirus testing for travelers, the Commission will provide at least €100 million to Member States for procuring tests. However, countries can still impose quarantine measures. After the regulation is ratified in the plenary of the EU Parliament in June, it will come into effect on 1 July 2021. Member States will then have six weeks to implement the regulation, which will be valid for one year.
German Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer comments:
“The new certificates can be used throughout Europe and will be privacy-friendly: Citizens will receive a separate certificate for each test and vaccination, not a single passport. They choose which certificate to present and after presentation to an airline, no data will be retained. Also, Citizens will be given a choice whether they want to receive a digital or a paper certificate. Regarding the implementation at national level, we advocate against the creation of centralised Covid registers because these could too easily be used for other purposes or hacked. Sensitive medical information belongs in the hands of the patient and their trusted medical professionals only.”
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. Thus, it won’t be possible for a person with a negative test to not be admitted to a country simply because he or she has not yet been vaccinated. However, it is unfortunate that Member States can still endanger our citizens by the option to accept vaccines that are not approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), such as Sputnik, for the travel pass.”
Marcel Kolaja, Czech Pirate Vice-President of the European Parliament, comments:
“Testing will be significantly more affordable. That can be considered a partial success. However, that does not change the fact that citizens will still have to pay for COVID-19 testing, which is in the end nothing else but discriminatory. Especially against those, who cannot afford such additional expenses and, therefore, may be prevented from traveling safely across borders. National governments basically allowed discrimination against their own citizens.”