The introduction of a commonly agreed on EU-wide vaccination certificate which would facilitate travel and ensure safety at destinations, tabled by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has garnered international media attention and support in view of efforts to restart travel and kickstart the bloc’s economy.
Among others, an opinion piece by the Greek prime minister explaining the logic and benefits of the certificate was published this week in Euractiv.
“We owe it to our citizens to pull every available lever and utilize every tool in our political and governmental arsenal so that we have everything in place to expedite a return to normal life within 2021,” writes Mitsotakis adding that the EU can no longer afford to “jeopardize jobs or lose one more year attempting to kick-start our economies”.
In this direction he recommends the vaccination certificate: an EU-wide introduction of an agreed and standardized digital vaccine certificate template which will help “quickly open up again, reviving tourism and recreation, and allowing our citizens to move freely and without restrictions from country to country”.
The issue is expected to be discussed today at a European Council meeting with the participation of EU leaders.
It should be noted that individuals living in Greece who have been vaccinated can already request a digital vaccination certificate to be used when needed.
Mitsotakis notes that it is vital that agreement and preparation begin now “because we need to prepare ourselves for the summer when a much larger number of people will have been vaccinated – the Passenger Locator Form experience of last summer showed us that planning ahead is essential”.
“EU leaders need to start to work on this initiative immediately, in order to fairly structure digital vaccine certificates and associated practices that satisfy any concerns,” he said, stressing that the proposed vaccination certificate “is not a vaccine passport. It is not about restricting people’s ability to travel. Rather it is about opening up the freedom of movement using a simple, certain, and secure digital solution that can get our economies moving again. It’s exactly the kind of collaborative project that the EU was set up to deliver.”
‘Vaccination certificate is not a travel passport’
The Greek PM was quick to stress that the vaccination certificate will in no way curtail freedom to travel and underlined that data protection is not in jeopardy.
“We should not confuse a vaccination certificate with a travel passport. Our aim is not to divide Europeans into two categories, those who are vaccinated and those who aren’t. Instead we want to create a ‘fast travel lane’ for those with a digitally standardized certificate,” he explained.
He added that people wishing to travel without a certificate will be able to as long as they proceed with PCR testing for Covid-19 before travel, rapid tests upon arrival and quarantines where appropriate.
The digitally verifiable and encrypted document, according to Mitsotakis, is bilingual and includes the individual’s name, social security number, vaccine type and date and venue of the doses administered.
Concluding, the Greek prime minister reiterated that Greece will not require travelers to present the document or be vaccinated but invited people to “embrace both. I accept that many citizens who are not in vulnerable categories will remain unvaccinated for some time yet. Which is why we will continue to utilize our world-class smart testing system at airports”.
“Ultimately, what an agreed digital vaccination certificate will do is provide certainty, allowing citizens to travel unencumbered by quarantine restrictions as soon as they are vaccinated and have a significant level of immunity,” he said.
So far, Mitsotakis’ proposal has been welcomed by the European Commission and Council, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),
Mitsotakis’ op-ed has been re-published in German on Das Morning Briefing.