Will the EU's Covid travel pass save the summer or create chaos?
Trumpeted as a quick fix to the holiday travel dilemma, and eagerly awaited by Europe's struggling tourism sector, the certificate is intended to allow rapid movement between EU states without additional quarantine or coronavirus tests. Critics say it's a recipe for delays and confusion.
The European Parliament has approved the regulations governing the Covid travel certificates. Individual EU governments must now give their own approval.
Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Denmark, Germany and Greece.
The certificate is available in both paper and digital forms, and guarantees that the holder has either been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, has recently tested negative, or has recovered from the disease.
From 1 July, all EU countries will be obliged to recognise the Covid status certificate.
The passes will be issued by individual nations, not from a centralised European system. They will contain a computer-readable QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries.
Travellers from outside the EU will be able to obtain the certificate on arrival, if they can prove that they meet the necessary health status conditions.
Chorus of critical scepticism
Critics of the EU certificate say there is no guarantee that the system will work.
Since individual EU states will set their own requirements for access to the travel pass, and with different rules for vaccination and testing across the 27-nation bloc, some commentators say it's a recipe for confusion.
Alberto Alemanno, a Paris-based specialist in EU law, says the certificates, far from easing travel chaos, could easily be the source of confusion and unpredictability.
"We need to remember that the conditions of access to this certificate will change from one country to another. It is up to each country to determine who gets the vaccine, who gets the test, who is going to be declared as immunised," he says.
And the EU is clearly aware of the danger of the system creating two classes of European citizen. The EU's information bulletin on the Covid certificate states that the "EU Digital Covid Certificate will not be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU."
The same EU document says that if a member state is not ready to issue the new certificate to its citizens on 1 July, other formats can still be used and should be accepted in other member states.
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