Throughout Europe there is a debate about the effectiveness of vaccinations and the possible discrimination that might be associated with those who are reluctant to vaccinate. The introduction of a uniform digital vaccination passport should restore freedom of movement within the Schengen area for all those who have been fully vaccinated, those who have recovered and those who have recently tested negative. It is mainly countries like Spain, Greece and Cyprus that are pushing for the introduction of this document, as their economies depend largely on tourism. Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, reported that according to what was decided at the meetings of the European Parliament in mid-April, the vaccine passport will be issued by this summer. However, the document will only be for information purposes, as travel within EU countries will still be allowed even if one does not have one. As a result, member states would continue to decide for themselves who can enter the country and under what conditions.
Situation in Germany
Following the “vaccination summit” held a few days ago, in which all the main political forces in Germany participated, opposition leaders strongly criticized the decisions taken by the federal government. The summit did not clarify all the points on the agenda, in particular the issue of the current restrictions and whether these should also apply to vaccinated persons. Some parties support the principle of equality, i.e. that restrictions should apply equally to everyone or no one. Other politicians argue that fundamental rights should only be restricted for good reasons and that vaccinated persons should enjoy certain privileges.
Situation in Spain
In Spain, the governments of the autonomous regions of Andalusia and Galicia, led by the Popolar Party, had proposed the introduction of a certification (similar to the Vaccination Passport) that would give the possibility of movement at national level. However, the centre-left coalition currently in government rejected this hypothesis. Juan Miguel González, spokesperson for the Spanish Society for Public Health and Public Health Services, says that in Spain there has been little debate about the hypothetical effects such a certificate might have on fundamental rights. According to González there has been a lack of transparency from the government on such important matters.
Italy already has a law for the Covid-19 digital passport
In Italy, meanwhile, since the beginning of the week, there has been a COVID-19 digital passport on which vaccinations, recoveries and test results are recorded. A ‘green’ passport entitles the holder to move freely throughout the country. This is otherwise only allowed in Italy between regions that are green or yellow in the national four-color risk assessment system, not orange or red regions. The law was passed without much political controversy or rights-focused debate, as the Italian constitution explicitly allows restrictions on freedom of movement for health reasons. Linking other benefits to the vaccination passport is not currently on the agenda in Italy. The political party Fratelli d’Italia was in favor of introducing the Vaccination Passport at European level.
Situation in France
Even though the French people are visibly suffering from the effects of the pandemic, they are not keen on compulsory vaccination and the Macron government does not intend to force their hand. The use of the Covid app, on which people can spontaneously enter their state of health (positive, negative, cured, vaccinated, etc.) is only recommended. The French government does not intend, at the moment, to give more freedom to those who decide to vaccinate.
UK will reopen its shops and restaurants very soon
In England, the Johnson government wanted to make the vaccine and the issuing of the vaccination certificate compulsory already in April, but the opposition strongly criticized the compulsory nature of this measure. Therefore, when shops reopen on 17 May, they will be open to all customers, vaccinated or not; it is left to the shop owner to request a negative test result when entering the shop.
However, the government is examining the possibility of digitizing the vaccination card issued to anyone who undergoes vaccination, in order to make it easier to enter large events (to which only vaccinated people and those with a negative test will be admitted).