EU agreement to launch vaccination certificate in July

Governments will still be able to impose quarantine or PCR, which will not be free but will receive EU funding

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Tourists strolling these days in Calella de Palafrugell.

BrusselsEuropean citizens will have a common vaccination certificate to make travel easier from July onwards. The agreement has not been easy, but finally the Parliament and European governments have agreed on the basis of this instrument. It will be called the "EU Covid Certificate", will be in the form of a QR and will contain all the information related to vaccines administered, PCR tests or the presence of antibodies. In the vast majority of cases, vaccinated people would be released from tests or quarantines, but ultimately imposing these restrictions whether or not the person traveling is immunised will be for each government to decide, which may impose them if it deems it necessary and justified due to epidemiological reasons.

The European Commission proposed in March the implementation of this vaccination certificate to simplify all the formalities that people who want to travel have to carry out due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, governments and MEPs have been negotiating until Thursday. MEPs demanded that possession of the certificate should automatically free travellers from quarantine or restrictions and that PCR tests should be absolutely free of charge to avoid economic discrimination against vaccinated people. Governments, however, have managed to nuance the two positions. They reserve the right to impose restrictions (quarantines or PCR tests) on vaccinated or certified travellers, although they undertake to do so only in very justified cases.

"The general rule is the acceptance of the certificate, which opens the door to free movement, and only exceptionally, if the epidemiological situation so indicates, can exceptional measures be adopted, which will have to be notified 48 hours before being imposed", explained the European Parliament's negotiator, Fernando López Aguilar, who described the negotiations as "stressful" due to the urgency of the measure and criticised the reluctance of European states to give up their power to impose these additional restrictions despite the use of the certificate.

PCRs will not be free

And MEPs have also been unsuccessful in one of their main demands. PCRs will not be free, but the European Commission has pledged at least 100 million of EU funds to make them more affordable, especially for people who travel on a regular basis for work or personal reasons. The agreement means that the certificate could come into force in July, after the plenary session of the European Parliament ratifies it in the first week of June.

The certificate will be free, multilingual and will be valid for one year, as explained López Aguilar, who has expressed hope that this certificate will allow "this summer to not look like the nightmare of last summer". Governments such as Greece and Spain were the ones who pushed hard to implement this instrument at a European level, with the clear objective of saving the tourist season this 2021, but other governments were reluctant to the slowness of the vaccination campaign and the unknowns about the impact of the new variants. Finally, the 27 will have to issue these certificates automatically and free of charge to vaccinated people and will have to be in force in July, although the European Parliament has lobbied for it to come into operation earlier.