Draft legislation for a “pass” to allow vaccinated EU citizens to travel for work or tourism will be published this month, Ursula von der Leyen has said, drawing a mixed response from European governments.

Spain, Greece and Portugal welcomed the announcement by the European commission president and a spokesman for Boris Johnson said the UK would be interested in discussing the concept with Brussels.

But the proposal for what Von der Leyen described as a “digital green pass” was described as “confusing” by Belgian’s deputy prime minister, who insisted that free movement was a right for all.

Sophie Wilmès, who also acts as Belgium’s foreign minister, tweeted: “The idea of a standardised European system that allows each individual to gather pieces of information about one’s vaccination, Covid tests, etc, on a single digital document (certificate) is a good one.

“However, in Mrs Von der Leyen’s proposal, the notion of a ‘pass’ is confusing in relation to the objective that this certificate should pursue.

“For Belgium, there is no question of linking vaccination to the freedom of movement around Europe. Respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalised.”

The commission is expected to publish draft legislation on 17 March on the format of a common EU vaccination certificate, the use of which would then be the subject of debate by leaders at a summit eight days later.

“The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the EU or abroad – for work or tourism,” Von der Leyen had told a meeting of German conservative politicians on Monday.

She later tweeted: “The aim is to provide: proof that a person has been vaccinated; results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet; info on Covid-19 recovery. It will respect data protection, security & privacy.”

The move was welcomed by Spain’s tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, at a meeting of EU tourism ministers in Lisbon. “It is important to have the tools ready to start mobility and make Europe a safe travel destination again as soon as the virus incidence data allows for this,” she said.

Portugal’s economy minister, Pedro Siza Vieira, said the commission should be clear about the importance of the sector to many member states.

He said: “Tourism is very significant from the point of view of the economy, but also employment across the EU. At the same time, it has been the industry which is most impacted by the restrictions we have put down on mobility and face-to-face businesses.”

The Greek government, whose economy is heavily dependent on the tourist industry, has been championing the rollout of a vaccination passport for months, and has opened up talks with the UK government over a bilateral arrangement for the summer.

A UK government spokesman said: “We’ve said we are looking at the issue of vaccine passports. As you can expect, the Department for Transport will work and do speak to countries across the world in terms of how they may look to introduce passports. But I can’t pre-empt the outcome of that review.”

The Guardian


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