The EU vaccination certificate is coming – but it will probably not be uniform.

UM – 03/2021

When heads of state and government met on the 25th February in the monthly video conference of the European Council, the debate focused on travel restrictions in many countries, the vaccine strategy and EU-wide digital vaccination certificates. It is true that non-essential travel would have to be restricted for the time being, as quoted in the joint statement released by the members of the European Council. According to the vaccination certificate supporters, the introduction of certificates that are valid throughout Europe could restore freedoms to EU citizens.

Is freedom to travel coming?

The idea within the EC, whose supporters come mainly from countries with a high proportion of tourism in their GDP, ultimately met with approval. A certificate that is valid throughout Europe is associated with many hopes in the general public and in the economy, e.g. freedom for holiday enthusiasts to travel as well as full coffers for tourism and transport companies. 

Vaccination certificates to be issued on a national basis

It is now up to the member states to develop their own digital vaccination certificates. In Germany, this will be a barcode that can be downloaded to a smartphone via an app. The code can be read out via an inspection app by government agencies or private service providers such as event organisers, hoteliers, etc. The data to be included and the standards to be met were defined back in January.

Europe enables data exchanging

The EC has the task of developing an approach to ensure compatibility and data exchanging between national systems at European level. It wants to realise this in a period of "around three months at least", according to Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen.

However, the European Council did not agree upon how the vaccination certificates should be used in the end. It is up to the member states to decide which facilities or freedoms will be ultimately granted via the vaccination certificate. The initial certificate will be nothing more than a medical certificate. However, a number of EU countries sympathise with the possibility of free entry after vaccination.

Vaccination certificate used as an admission ticket?

Private commercial enterprises can also decide on the use of the vaccination certificates. The case of the travel company, Alltours shows where the journey can go from here. The company has declared that it will probably only accommodate holidaymakers with proof of vaccination in its hotels as from autumn of this year. A "Corona pass" could quickly become an entry requirement imposed by tour operators, restaurateurs and theatres.

Private companies are creating precedents

Whereas it is fundamentally more difficult for the state to grant freedom to vaccinated people against the background of slow vaccinations and the prioritisation of groups of people, private commercial companies can create precedents here. For this reason, some countries, such as Austria, want to make the digital pass more comprehensive from the outset and also include information about a negative PCR test result or a history of COVID-19.

Patchwork quilt programmed

In Germany, there are still reservations about further applications with reference to the lack of proof that the vaccination actually prevents the virus from being passed on. The German Federal Ministry of Health is working on a streamlined, digital model that can be issued in addition to the usual paper-based pass. Whether, where and to what extent the digital vaccination certificate will make people's lives easier this summer remains to be seen. The three-month time-frame mentioned in the address is quite ambitious.