Europe's coronavirus passport to be ready in June

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Travelers at Tallinn Airport. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

European Union member states have reached a consensus on the launch of the so-called coronavirus passport, and if the Green Digital Certificate initiative successfully passes through the European Parliament, it could be available in June.

"Now it has been agreed on by the member states and there are no longer any disagreements. It will progress to the European Parliament and it is aimed to be finished as soon as possible so the cross-border acknowledgment of certificates can enter into force as soon as possible, maybe already in May or June," Ministry of Foreign Affairs undersecretary of European Affairs Märt Volmer told ERR.

He said the European Parliament wants Europeans to be able to travel as soon as possible and wants to help speed up the process.

The digital green certificates will allow all certificate signatures to be verified across the EU and the European Commission will build the "gateway" or trust data layer which allows this to happen.

The personal data encoded in the certificate does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The Commission will also help Member States to develop software that authorities can use to check the QR codes.

The certificate will prove if the owner is vaccinated, has suffered from the coronavirus, or has recently tested negative.

Volmer said Estonia has almost finished its version. "According to my knowledge, the Ministry of Social Affairs has promised to get the test version working by the end of April," he said.

Märt Volmer. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Kalle Killar, undersecretary of e-Services and Innovation of the Ministry of Social Affairs, told ETV's "Terevisoon" on Wednesday that late April or early May is the goal.

Killar said 17 countries are ready to start a pilot project in May and the European Commission is ready to offer them its solution to make the project a success.

A European Commission official on Wednesday said Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece and the Czech Republic have made the most progress.

Volmer emphasized that although the gateway would be created by the European Union, each member state must make its own digital certificates. If a country lags behind, its citizens will suffer.

"It is a problem for the people of that country, because if vaccination or suffering from the virus brings any benefits - if vaccines become more available - it will be very difficult for people in those countries to prove [abroad] that they have been vaccinated or have suffered from the virus. They must then use old-fashioned paper evidence, which the border guard can accept or reject and say this is not authentic and go home," Volmer said. "With a digital certificate, things are much more secure because it can be proven across the European Union through a layer of trust. It is in the interests of each country's citizens to be able to move and carry out their activities again."

Killar said that it may be difficult for some countries to manage their own national data and make it available in the right format but he said Estonia can offer its advice.

Volmer explained a digital certificate will not give anyone any additional rights, but only displays information about its owner. What restrictions and opportunities digital certificate owners can have decided by each state.

"It also makes sense, because the issue of health is in the competence of states and their decisions also depend on the virus situation in that state," Volmer said.

The European Commission, which has the right to initiate legislation in the European Union, proposed the creation of a digital certificate on March 17, subject to the approval of both the European Parliament and the Council.

Read more about the digital green certificates on the European Commission's website.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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