Spain and Greece against Germany and France: the vaccination passport is blocked in the EU

Brussels says that for now the certificate cannot exempt from the obligation of PCR and quarantine to travel.

Capture of the videoconference of European Affairs ministers held this Tuesday

The virtual meeting of European Affairs ministers of the Twenty-seven held this Tuesday has once again highlighted the deep division in the EU about the launch of a vaccination passport against Covid-19 such as the one advocated by the Government of Pedro Sanchez.

While Spain and Greece have once again called for this initiative to be accelerated to facilitate travel and save the summer tourist season, France and Germany have replied that it is a premature measure and that it raises ethical problems, as diplomatic sources have confirmed to EL ESPAÑOL.

The result is that the debate on this issue is totally blocked. “We are at the beginning of this discussion and it will cost us time to determine the use of the vaccination certificate for anything other than medical issues”, explained the Secretary of State for European Affairs of Portugal at the end of the meeting, Ana Paula Zacarias, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

“There are different positions between the Member States. Some express technical or ethical concerns. Others would like to move quickly on this issue“, Zacarias has admitted. The EU Heads of State and Government are scheduled to discuss vaccination certificates again at the video summit that is being held this Thursday to coordinate the strategy against the coronavirus.

For his part, the Vice President of the Commission, Maros Sefcovic, explained that technical work to create a digital certificate that is recognized in all Member States it’s already underway. But he has made it clear that, at least initially, this document will have a purely medical use: to be able to prove that a person is vaccinated.

At the moment, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advises against using the certificate to facilitate travel. The reason is that It is not yet known whether vaccinated people can become infected and continue to spread the disease.

Therefore, according to the ECDC there is currently insufficient evidence to exempt travelers who have proof of vaccination from the quarantine or testing requirements. Of course, this position may evolve in the future to as more data arrives, ”said Sefcovic.

“In any case, one question must be clear: being vaccinated cannot become a precondition so that European citizens can exercise their fundamental right to free movement. Free movement must continue to be possible when testing or quarantine requirements are met, ”insists the vice president.

During the debate, both Greece and Spain, countries highly dependent on tourism, have called for speeding up the vaccination passport. Secretary of State for the EU, Juan Gonzalez-Barba, has appealed to his colleagues to “take advantage of the opportunity offered by vaccination to facilitate cross-border mobility”.

The Government of Athens also calls for rapid progress. “Observing the reaction of some countries to the proposals for vaccination certificates, I think there is a lot of myopia. We have to do more now to prepare”, said the Greek Tourism Minister, Harry Theocharis, al Financial Times.

In contrast, the German representative, Michael Roth, has once again insisted this Tuesday that it is a premature debate because right now the percentage of the vaccinated population is very low and there is a shortage of injections in the EU, which triggers the risk of discrimination. For his part, the French Secretary of State for the EU, Clement Beaune, has said that the vaccination passport raises ethical problems, according to the sources consulted. The Netherlands and Belgium have also spoken out against it.

Chaos at the borders

Given the blockade in the EU, Greece has decided to act on its own and has already closed an agreement with Israel, the country in the world with the highest percentage of vaccinated population, for the mutual recognition of their respective certificates. In addition, it negotiates with the United Kingdom. For their part, Denmark and Sweden have already announced their own digital passport, which will be used not only for travel, but also to access massive events such as football matches or concerts.

In contrast, the government of Pedro Sanchez It has decided to wait for the moment until there is an agreement in the EU or in the OECD, although it is considering advancing on its own in the creation of tourist corridors outside the EU. “No we absolutely rule out the possibility of exploring similar agreements to which Greece has reached with third countries, ”explain sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Twenty-seven have also addressed this Tuesday the chaos at the internal borders of the EU caused by fear of new highly contagious variants of Covid-19, such as the British, South African or Brazilian. Brussels insists that the total closure of borders decreed by some Member States is not the solution because it fractures the single market and threatens to cause shortages.

In fact, the Community Executive has requested this Tuesday by letter to Germany to ease its restrictions considering that they are disproportionate. Angela Merkel’s government has closed the borders with Austria and the Czech Republic and requires PCR tests even from carriers, which contravenes EU agreements.

The Commission has also asked Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary and Sweden for explanations for having decreed a general ban on entry or exit from the country.