The European Commission wants to secure the free movement of persons during the crisis for another year.

UM – 02/2022

On 3 February, the European Commission proposed to extend the validity of Regulation (EU)2021/953 on a framework for the issuance, verification, and acceptance of interoperable certificates attesting to COVID-19 vaccination and testing, and recovery from COVID-19 infection (EU digital COVID certificate) by one year with the objective of facilitating free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic (see here).

Pandemic forecasts are difficult

Infection rates are still high and the trend over the summer ahead is hardly foreseeable. New mutations can still occur, creating new hazards in terms of infection, disease and its progression. In view of these uncertainties, a longer period of validity of the regulation is appropriate. It is also warranted as the implementation of vaccination strategies has been slow in many Member States. "Vaccine naysayers" would benefit very little from the EU certificate if the regulation actually expired on 30 June this year.

The certificate shows only the status quo

The European Commission has achieved great success with the digital COVID certificate. Almost everyone with a smartphone also has the EU certificate. The QR codes can be read electronically in every EU Member State and 33 other countries. The COVID certificate is the ticket to many things in a world shaped by pandemic restrictions on everyday life. Provided that one is sufficiently vaccinated, an infection did not occur too long ago or the test is negative. The COVID certificate maps vaccination, testing and recovery status. It can only show the status quo. What one is allowed to do is up to the countries.

Exceptions confirm the rule

The validity of the individual certificates is not regulated at this point. There are EU-wide requirements here, but they are not implemented exactly in all Member States. Since 1 February, the vaccination certificate has been valid for 270 days throughout the EU after the second vaccination (see here); however, it is only valid after the third vaccination in Austria (see here). A requirement for a test certificate is a negative PCR test that is less than 72 hours old or a negative antigen test that is less than 48 hours old. The basis for a certificate of recovery is a positive PCR test performed more than eleven days but but was not carried out more than 180 days ago. Germany was an exception in the meantime, with a validity of only 90 days.

... and there is an atmosphere of rising resentment in the parliament

What appears to be acceptable in the specific case may very well lead to annoyance on the whole. In this sense, 52 MEPs - including those from Austria and Germany - have appealed to the European Commissioner for the Interior, Thierry Breton to protest against the continuing obstacles to the free movement of persons. The letter of 7 February 2022 states "Citizens still need to browse several websites to find out what they need to do before travelling, whether they need forms to obtain a passport, whether they need to be checked, whether their second dose is still valid in other countries, etc.". The patchwork of restrictions in EU countries must be replaced by "appropriate standardization of measures".

Further changes to follow

The European Commission also intends to use the necessary amendment to the law to introduce minor changes to the content. Thus, it should also be possible to issue test certificates for high-quality laboratory antigen tests. In addition, the aim is to ensure that vaccinations carried out in different Member States are reflected in the vaccination certificate. So far, only vaccinations that take place in the issuing country are certified. In addition, individuals participating in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines will also receive a certificate.

The European Parliament and the European Council must confirm the proposals in a timely manner for the changes to enter into force on time, in particular, the extension of the regulation.