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Digital Green Certificate for Travel: The EU’s Proposal is Open to Third Countries

The Digital Green Certificate, a proposal put forward to allow EU citizens that have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the coronavirus to travel more freely this summer, is open to initiatives being developed globally, according to guidelines released by the European Commission.

Officially presented on March 17, the certificate is expected to be in place by the summer and is aimed to enable restriction-free movement while crossing borders and help restart travel and tourism in the EU.

With regard to travel from outside the EU, the Commission touches on the subject through the following answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Digital Green Certificate.

Question: Will the Digital Green Certificate include non-EU nationals in the EU?

Answer: Yes. The Digital Green Certificate should be issued to family members of EU citizens, regardless of their nationality. The Commission also adopted a complementary proposal to ensure that the Digital Green Certificate is also issued to non-EU nationals who reside in Member States or Schengen Associated States and to visitors who have the right to travel to other Member States. Separate proposals to cover citizens and non-EU citizens are necessary for legal reasons; there is no difference in treatment of citizens and eligible non-EU citizens for the purpose of the certificates.

The Digital Green Certificate could also be issued to nationals or residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican/Holy See, in particular where they are vaccinated by a Member State.

Question: Could today’s proposals also facilitate travelling to the EU from third countries?

Answer: At the moment, non-essential travel to the EU is restricted from third countries, except for a limited number of countries. A non-EU national who may travel to the EU can obtain a Digital Green Certificate. The non-EU national could request a Digital Green Certificate from a Member State he/she is travelling to, by providing all necessary information, including reliable proof of vaccination. The Member State would then have to assess if reliable proof has been provided and decide whether to issue a Digital Green Certificate.

In the medium-term, where the Commission is satisfied that a third country issues certificates in compliance with international standards and systems which are interoperable with the EU system, the Commission can issue an “adequacy decision” through an implementing act based on the regulation proposed today. Then, such third country certificates would be accepted under the same conditions as Digital Green Certificates.

In both cases, the rules for acceptance of proof of vaccination would be the same as for EU nationals: vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation have to be accepted, but Member States can decide to accept other vaccines in addition.

Question: Will the Digital Green Certificate be compatible with other systems developed at international level?

Answer: The Commission is working to make sure that the certificates are compatible with systems in third countries outside the EU. The proposal is open to global initiatives and takes into account ongoing efforts of specialised agencies of the United Nations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to establish specifications and guidance for using digital technologies for documenting vaccination status. Third countries should be encouraged to recognise the Digital Green Certificate when lifting restrictions on non-essential travel. The EU’s Digital Green Certificates could serve as an example for other certificates currently being developed around the world.

The Regulation would be incorporated into the EEA Agreement, allowing EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to apply the EU system of Digital Green Certificates. As regards Switzerland, the Commission will be able to decide to accept Swiss certificates issued in accordance with the Digital Green Certificate draft Regulation, based on reciprocity.

The March 17 proposal would allow the Commission to issue a decision recognising certificates issued by third countries to EU citizens and their family members, where such certificates meet quality standards and are interoperable with the EU trust framework.

The EU has clarified that the certificate will not be a requirement for travel and that it will comprise three distinct certificates – one for people that have been vaccinated against Covid-19, a second for those that have tested negative and a third for those that have recovered from the coronavirus.

According to the Commission, the Digital Green Certificate is intended to launch as a temporary measure to facilitate travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is planned to be suspended once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the Covid-19 international health emergency.

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