With a view to guaranteeing the right to free movement of EU citizens regardless of the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs approved two reports to extend the device of the EU digital COVID certificate – the validity of which expires on June 30 – for an additional year. The reports were adopted by 48 votes for and 16 against.
In addition to this extension until June 30, 2023, the changes made will also allow states to issue certificates based on new types of antigen screening tests.
Review after six months
MEPs amended the proposals to stress that member states should not impose additional sanctions on the free movement of citizens holding an EU digital COVID certificate, unless absolutely necessary. If restrictions are necessary, they should be limited, proportionate and based on the most recent scientific advice from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Health Security Committee (HSC).
In addition, MEPs asked the Commission to assess whether the scheme is still necessary and proportionate six months after the start of the extension. They also want the Commission to shorten the period of application of the regulation as soon as the epidemiological situation allows it.
The introduction of the EU digital COVID certificate was adopted on June 20, 2021, for a limited period of 12 months, with the aim of facilitating free movement in Europe during the pandemic.
Rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: “A year ago we created the EU digital COVID certificate so that unilateral national restrictions do not threaten the right to free movement and the equality. We wanted to avoid any discrimination between countries of origin. We wanted this regulation to be limited in time. However, it can only be repealed once the pandemic is over. This is not the case. As a result, we are extending the validity of the certificate and asking the experts to assess the situation in six months. So far, we are seeing that citizens are traveling again all over Europe, which proves that the regulations are working.”
The decision of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee to start negotiations with the Council on the legislative proposal will be announced at next week’s plenary session in Strasbourg. In case of objection, the decision will be put to the vote on Thursday 5 May.