Why a Digital Green Certificate if member states won’t comply with it?
On 6 May, The Good Lobby and Euroconsumers organised a webinar to discuss the Digital Green Certificate that was proposed by the European Commission and is planned to be adopted by co-legislators by June. The Certificate is set to waive those who have been vaccinated, have recovered from the virus, or can show a negative COVID-19 test from existing and future cross-border restrictions.
As EU institutions continue to negotiate the details of the Certificate, The Good Lobby and Euroconsumers met the European Parliament’s rapporteur, Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP, for an open conversation with academics, civil society, and consumer organisations.
High PCR test prices and the absence of an EU level coordination are an obstacle to free movement
All panelists acknowledged the confusing situation for European consumers regarding free movement in the European Union and the potential of the Certificate to overcome that. The divergence of access to COVID-19 vaccines and tests together with the proliferation of measures imposed upon the entry of the member states was defined as “grotesque” Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP.
Speakers stressed the need for member states and the European Commission to ensure access to free testing to all citizens. The wide range of price tests across EU member states was raised several times. Ileana Izverniceanu, spokesperson for OCU, the Spanish member of Euroconsumers stressed that in Spain for example, the cost average of PCR tests is ‘totally unaffordable’ for a family of four members. This situation where some citizens can travel ‘for free’ being vaccinated, while others have to pay several hundreds of euros for tests just to be allowed to take a family trip has been long denounced by Euroconsumers.
Some paradoxical challenges faced by consumers because of the current lack of coordination between member states were pointed out. Professor Luiza Bialasiewicz highlighted the fact that free movement is currently made easier for some European citizens traveling from one country to another than for those who travel within their own country. The complexity due to differing measures to enter member states was also addressed. Julie Frère, spokesperson for Test Achats, the Belgian member of Euroconsumers, shared the recent example of a family travelling to Portugal with negative PCR tests but were asked to have another test in Portugal, not because the test was different but just because it was called differently (PCRT and not PCR).
EU level coordination is necessary to ensure free movement
Speakers agreed that EU level coordination was necessary for citizens to safely regain their right to free movement. There was consensus among panelists that only a EU-wide approach would be a solution to the proliferation of contradictory measures that hamper free movement.
Another unanimous point was the necessity for member states to refrain from adding additional restrictions on top of the Certificate. Otherwise, Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP said the credibility of the European Union would be strongly damaged. Julie Frère added that if the Digital Green Certificate becomes an additional administrative bottleneck for citizens who are travelling, the European Commission risks “being ridiculed”. She also questioned the relevance of the Digital Green Certificate itself if it is not to be respected by member states.
Member states should comply with the Digital Green Certificate
Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP also provided an update on the state of play of the interinstitutional negotiations. He said that EU institutions are working round the clock on negotiating a final deal. Mentioning the fact that member states are sticking to their sovereignty, he questioned the relevance of the accelerated procedure on the Digital Green Certificate if member states can choose not to comply with it.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar also stressed that according to the Schengen borders code, emergency measures can only be set up for a limited time frame, and under no circumstances should last for years. Therefore, Juan Fernando López Aguilar denounced member states’ repeated infringements of the Schengen regulation and the current action, reaction, and retaliation dynamics between member states.
The Digital Green Certificate ‘should do the trick’ to unlock the summer
As to the possibility for member states to use the Digital Green Certificate for other purposes than those of travelling, Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP acknowledged that this should never happen. Julie Frère raised the importance that the Certificate be adopted quickly, so that consumers can have a better visibility and can plan their holidays. She also called EU stakeholders to provide consumers with a real summer plan.
A video summary of the debate can be found here.
The full debate can be found here.