Merkel: EU vaccination passport to be introduced within 3 months
At a virtual summit on Thursday, EU member states agreed that they would establish a system of mutually-recognised coronavirus vaccination passports by early summer. Exactly which privileges the passport holders would be entitled to is still up for debate.
EU leaders agree on need for vaccination passport
During the video conference on Thursday, the 27 heads of state and government exchanged ideas for fighting coronavirus in Europe, before agreeing upon the need to introduce a digital vaccination certificate.
Speaking after the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “everyone agrees that we need something like this”, but that the EU Commission still needs “about three months” to prepare the technical ground for the digital passport. “The expectation is that it will be ready by summer,” she said.
Not clear whether vaccine passport would allow free travel
Exactly which rights will be granted to holders of the passport is, however, still being debated. Tourism-dependent member states, including Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Italy, have been pushing for the vaccine passports to facilitate free travel within the bloc in time for the summer holidays - for instance, without the requirement to get a test or quarantine. Earlier in the day on Thursday, the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, had fuelled debate by suggesting that “those who are vaccinated should have full freedom.”
However, Merkel insisted that the scheme would not mean that only those with vaccination passports would be allowed to travel in future. “We have not yet made any political decisions about this,” she said. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasised that each country would have to decide for itself and that the system would be “politically neutral.”
Vaccination progress still sluggish in the EU
Some member states are still on the fence about free travel arrangements. According to a senior EU diplomat, the German government, along with the heads of other countries like France and the Netherlands, is concerned that such regulations could establish mandatory vaccination “through the back door.” It has furthermore not yet been sufficiently demonstrated that vaccinated people do not spread the virus.
In any case, Merkel seems keen to suppress debate on the issue for now. On Thursday she said that “given the low level of vaccination among the population,” it was “currently not an issue.” The heads of the federal states were quick to point out that preparation was needed, well in advance.