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European Union governments met on Tuesday to discuss progress on a COVID-19 certificate to help citizens travel more freely through the 27-nation bloc and open up summer tourism.
While EU officials stress that they will not discriminate against those who do not have a certificate, tourism-dependent countries like Greece hope to end current national rules, with the agreement required by the end of June.
A COVID certificate will be distributed free of charge by health authorities in EU countries to people who have been vaccinated, tested negative or are immune after being cured of COVID. No one will be forced to use the EU certificate, says the European Parliament.
EU lawmakers are drafting the certificate together with the European Commission and EU government negotiators. Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, hopes for a political agreement on the deal by the end of May to enable the certificate to run until June 21st. Negotiators must decide whether faster, but less accurate, COVID-19 antigen tests can be included in the certificate.
The European Commission proposes to call it the "Digital Green Certificate". The European Parliament suggests that it should be called the EU COVID-19 Certificate. It is not a vaccine passport, officials say.
The certificate can be a letter or a digital document, with a QR code carrying encrypted data that can be uploaded to the central system to allow verification in other EU countries through a single port. EU countries can link their national vaccine data to a central system using a model provided by German developers.
EU negotiators must agree whether all vaccines can be considered for the certificate, or only those approved by the European Medicines Agency.
A full opening of the system in all member states is scheduled for June. Linking non-EU countries to the system is technically possible if a political agreement is signed this month and an equivalence decision given by the EU to share data.