EU confident of COVID-19 travel certificate for summer

·2 min read
COVID-19 vaccination in the Central Mosque in Cologne

By Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Commission expects to finish work soon on a COVID-19 certificate that could allow citizens to travel more easily this summer in the 27-nation bloc, the EU executive said on Tuesday after a meeting with European affairs ministers.

The pass would allow those vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or with negative test results to cross borders in a union where restrictions on movement have weighed heavily on the travel and tourism industry for more than a year.

"This is a priority for our citizens and therefore I believe we will deliver (on the certificate) before summer," Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said after the meeting in Brussels. He said he expected a full roll-out by the summer.

A two week pilot project to test the technology a few countries at a time began on Monday, the EU Commission said.

But EU governments, the European Parliament and the Commission must agree on the design of the certificate. They must also decide whether faster, but less accurate, COVID-19 antigen tests can be included.

Sefcovic called on all sides to work together to complete the legislative, as well as the technical, work as quickly as possible, noting the complexity of the job.

"For the certificate to work, it has to be on smartphones, it has to be interoperable, possible to check it. So it is quite the task to do it at the pan-European level", Sefcovic said.

The European Parliament says no one will be obliged to use the EU certificate and it must not be considered a vaccine passport.

Sefcovic said the Commission was working closely to inform the United States, the World Health Organization and others about its progress to allow the certificate to be used on a wider scale.

As the vaccination campaign in the EU is gaining speed with 200 million jabs delivered and COVID-19 infections rates falling, Europe is starting to reopen cities and beaches, raising hopes for the summer holiday season.

German Europe Minister Michael Roth called for a swift agreement.

"This is not only important for countries depending on tourism but for all of us: It is ... a clear signal for freedom of movement and for mobility in the European Union," Roth said in Brussels.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Alison Williams)

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