European travelers can expect to travel beginning in June with the help of the European Union’s freshly approved COVID-19 immunity passports. However, a deeper look reveals the passports have been in the works since at least 2019.
On Thursday, the European Union announced plans to move forward to the next phase of rolling out their version of controversial “immunity passports” across Europe. Representatives of the EU member states debated the roll out of the certificate on Wednesday and announced the results on Thursday morning. The vote was 540 yes, 119 no, and 31 abstentions. The implementation of the “EU Covid-19 certificate” is expected to happen in early June.
The EU COVID-19 certificate will be a digital and/or paper certificate with a QR code which allows anyone who has been fully vaccinated, has proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or has recovered from COVID-19, to travel across the European Union. So although these are often referred to as “immunity” passports, they do not necessarily represent immunity or even vaccine status since individuals can also use a negative COVID-19 test to receive one.
During Wednesday’s debate Members of Parliament called for setting a deadline for the program, ultimately voting that the system should not be in place longer than 12 months. They also voted in favor of changing the name from the Digital Green Certificate to the EU COVID-19 certificate.
Italian MEP Piernicola Pedicini warned against rushing the approval process of the certificates, stating “Haste is not a wise counsel.” He also raised concerns about the committee stage for the certificate legislation being skipped.
The next step of implementing the certificate involves negotiations between the European Parliament and the leaders of the 27 EU member states about how each nation will initiate the certificate system. Each member state must set up infrastructure to issue, verify, and store the certificates’ data. By June the so-called “EU gateway” will open up allowing member states to join the program.
During the lead-up to the vote, MEPs argued that the certificate should not be used as a tool for discrimination. Rather, they argued, the certificate should be a tool for “facilitating freedom of movement”. Before Wednesday’s vote, Stella Kyriakides EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, stated that the certificate is “crucial to assist the Member States in the fight against the pandemic while allowing citizens to exercise their free movement rights in a coordinated and safe manner.”
However, the idea that the EU COVID-19 certificate grants people their right to move about freely is ridiculous at best, and horrifying at worst. The government – any government – does not grant the people their rights. Additionally, this certificate and similar vaccine passport schemes are explicitly about discriminating against certain people. Specifically, those who have yet to be or choose not to be vaccinated.