The EU states want to establish a system of mutually recognized Corona vaccination passports by early summer. The 27 heads of state and government exchanged views on this at a video summit on pandemic control on Thursday. Afterward, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said the political target was "to achieve this in the next few months, I did talk about three months." There was no agreement on the question of what advantages these passports should offer. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed that each country would have to decide this for itself, and that the system would be "politically neutral."
Merkel clarified that the introduction would in any case not mean that in the future only those with a vaccination passport would be allowed to travel: "No political decisions have been made about that at all yet." Prior to the video summit, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had stoked the debate on whether vaccination certificates should make travel easier, and if so, which ones. "Those who are vaccinated should have full freedom," the Christian Democrat said in an interview with Bild Live. "But so should all those who have just had Corona and are therefore immune, and also all those who take a test and can prove they are negative." Later, Kurz threatened to go it alone if progress fails to materialize at the EU level: "If there is no European solution, then we have to implement this project nationally."
Tourism countries push for freedom of travel for vaccinated people
Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had argued similarly in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, saying that anyone with such a passport proving vaccination should be able to travel more easily between member states, for example without having to go through quarantine. Both the Greek and Austrian economies depend heavily on tourism; the governments therefore hope that the pandemic will have less of an impact on the travel season this summer than it has recently. The discussion is being fueled by the tourism industry itself. The Düsseldorf-based tour operator Alltours, for example, plans to rent rooms in some hotels only to those who have been vaccinated, starting in November.
After the summit, Chancellor Kurz expressed satisfaction: "I am pleased that there is a broad front of support among EU member states," he wrote on Twitter. "Now it's a matter of implementing as quickly as possible!" EU Council President Charles Michel said some questions remained after the summit debate, but some misunderstandings among member states had been cleared up.
While tourism-dependent member states are pushing for travel facilitation for vaccinated people, other countries are more reluctant. A senior EU diplomat said governments of countries such as France and Germany feared such regulations could establish mandatory vaccination "through the back door." Merkel stressed that benefits for vaccinated people "are not even the issue at the moment, given the low vaccination coverage of the population." All heads of state and government had pointed this out, she said: "But you have to prepare."
Controversial commission head von der Leyen said it is also still unclear whether vaccinated people are contagious, despite recent research which stated the exact opposite. The German explained how the system of mutually recognized EU vaccination passports would work. According to the report, the states and the Commission have already agreed on what data these certificates should contain. Member states would now have to establish the necessary systems in health care and at borders. The Commission's task, she said, is to facilitate data exchange and compatibility. Von der Leyen urged governments to "move forward quickly."
What advantages the passports should offer is still a matter of debate
Once the systems are ready for use, at the latest, there will be no avoiding the difficult debate about what advantages the passports should offer. Just how tedious this discussion will be can be seen, for example, from the fact that there is no consensus even within the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag. Health expert Karl Lauterbach told the SZ that he is critical of an EU-wide vaccination passport at the present time: it is not known "whether and, in particular, for how long corona vaccines offer immunity in the sense of protection against infection and protection against passing on the infection."
Lauterbach's parliamentary group colleague Bärbel Bas, on the other hand, believes that a European vaccination certificate makes sense. It would ensure that Germans abroad would not suffer any disadvantages. The health policy spokeswoman of the FDP, Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, was also in favor of the EU vaccination certificate, but only after all those willing to be vaccinated had received an offer. CDU health politician Karin Maag called for uniform rules, also with regard to booster vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the Greek government has been issuing Corona vaccination certificates for a week and has agreed with Israel to mutually recognize the respective vaccination certificates.
Image by The Eye Newspapers