European Parliament to back Covid-19 travel passport
It took fifteen months, but Emmanuel Macron’s charm offensive is finally paying off and European Parliamentarians are coming back to Strasbourg for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
The French president had been wooing back parliamentarians and their staff to his country after the pandemic put a halt to all travel, leaving the assembly, perhaps not unwelcomely, stuck at their main seat in Brussels.
When the roughly one-third of members of the parliament who heeded the call to stick to tradition and return to the city on France’s border with Germany, one of their first actions will be to unclog travel across borders within the EU, as the group will be asked to give its green light for an EU Covid-19 travel passport.
The certificate – which will exist as a mobile phone app and also in a printed version – will be on the agenda on Tuesday and parliament is expected to approve legislation to allow the regulation to enter into force on the first of July.
The certificate would allow all Europeans Union residents to travel freely across borders again if they can show a recent negative corona test, proof they have recovered from the disease or evidence that they have been fully vaccinated.
While national health authorities would issue the certificate, all countries would recognise it. Most countries are already testing the certificate - others, such as Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland are already using it.
The draft agreement between the Parliament and the European Council says that countries should not apply further restrictions on passport-holders, unless in case of serious deterioration of the pandemic. Nevertheless, EU countries will retain the option of imposing extra measures, if they see the need.
During a special European Council meeting last month, Europe’s leaders agreed to come up with a coordinated approach on how to implement the certificate by mid-June. That remains the goal – but countries are divided.
Tourism-dependent countries like Spain, Portugal or Greece have been pushing for easing restrictions as quickly as possible. But others worry an overly rapid return to normal could jeopardize the control of the pandemic, given that the virus mutates regularly and might become resistant to the vaccines.
The European Union – meeting at the level of the powerful ambassadors, or permanent representatives to the EU – could not agree last week whether to include the UK and the US in the so-called green list of countries from which non-essential travel into the bloc is allowed.
Spain, desperate to received tourists, already allows British travellers to cross into its borders without any restrictions – they do not even have to show a negative test. Needless to say, the Commission chided Spain over that practice, saying Britons now had it easier than the EU citizens they no longer are.
Such individual moves by countries are not helping to reinstate the freedom of movement across Europe, the Commission has been saying, crucial to relaunch the European economy after the heavy blow of the health crisis.
So far, the ECB - as so often before – has been playing a central role in keeping the bloc’s economy afloat, through its debt purchase programme. The central bank this week will decide whether to maintain that support measure for markets and borrowers, as EU finances are showing signs of recovery.
What the Eurocrat will be also watching:
On Monday, the European Court of Auditors - the EU’s budget watchdog - will send out a report on Frontex. The EU’s border control agency has been at the centre of media allegations its officers had illegally pushed back migrants and violated human rights. Since then, a group of human right lawyers recently launched a case against Frontex before the European Court of Justice on behalf of two migrants who said they were forcibly sent back and abandoned at sea. The European Parliament is also investigating the allegations.