After long and tough negotiations, EU legislators came to an agreement on the design of the EU Digital COVID Certificate regulation on 20 May. The agreement enshrines the Renew Europe Group’s commitment to swiftly restoring freedom of movement, saving tourism and restarting the economy, while also keeping COVID-19 in check.
Dacian Cioloş MEP, President of Renew Europe, said: “Renew Europe welcomes the agreement on a digital COVID certificate, which establishes common and non-discriminatory rules. This certificate is very much expected by all those who need to travel for their work, such as cross-border workers and transport workers. European citizens will soon be able to travel again and plan their summer holidays with confidence.”
He continued: “In this negotiation, the Renew Europe Group particularly insisted on access to affordable testing. This is important for all Europeans who will still be waiting to be vaccinated in the coming weeks and months. They too must be able to travel. Renew Europe also welcomes the easy-to-understand system in the agreement. It has been important not to add new administrative burdens to citizens and businesses. The price of testing must not be a barrier for all those with limited financial means. It is a question of social justice at a time when the health crisis has increased inequalities.”
Renew Europe is proud that the European Parliament has managed to secure EU funding of EUR 100 million for free-of-charge testing for the purpose of the certificate for specific groups, such as people who cross borders frequently for work or school, or taking care of family. This will help to restore citizens' fundamental right to free movement, while also avoiding discrimination.
Additionally, Member States shall now refrain from implementing additional travel restrictions, such as mandatory quarantine periods or additional testing, unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health. This clause still allows Member States to impose restrictions, but the European Parliament will be monitoring the implementation of this new Regulation daily.
Sophie in 't Veld MEP (NL, D66) Renew Europe negotiator for the agreement, added: “The European Parliament worked on this proposal with only one consideration: what do Europeans need in order to travel again freely and safely? It has secured financial support for people for whom the cost of testing is too high. People with low incomes have already been hit the hardest by this crisis. Think about the healthcare workers and all the other people who need a break, and want to travel abroad. Or people working across borders or with family across borders. That is why this proposal is supported by the European Parliament and the people of Europe. It is disappointing that national governments do not.”
The European Parliament has been united in its aim to make life easier for EU citizens throughout the negotiation process. Accordingly, Renew Europe has pushed Member State governments to take a more ambitious European stance, including providing free tests to all EU citizens for the purpose of COVID-19 Certificates. The refusal of Member States to end the current patchwork of measures and put the interest of citizens first is disappointing, and Renew Europe urges Member States to refrain from imposing additional restrictions in the future.
However, the overall compromise on a single European certificate will soon help European citizens to travel freely within the EU again. European citizens count on the European Parliament to deliver a solution, and with this deal, legislation has been delivered on time to be fully rolled out by the summer season.
Once the provisional agreement is approved by the European Parliament plenary in June, Renew Europe is counting on Member States to swiftly make the certificates operational in every country. Those Member States that are still not ready to roll out the certificates will be granted a maximum of six weeks to do so. However, they shall recognise certificates issued by other Member States during that period and Renew Europe will call on them to keep delays to a minimum.