MIAMI – It was probably an expected outcome from compromises made between the EU Council and the EU Parliament. An agreement was reached on May 20 on the EU COVID Digital Certificate, aka ‘Green Pass’, reports Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

The document was aimed at quickly restoring travel possibilities for the year-long travel-deprived Europe, allowing free movement within the EU with limited restrictions, and saving what will be left of the holiday summer season after the vaccination campaign finally reached cruising speed.

The purpose of the certificate is now well known to everyone, even to those not directly involved with it. It is meant to be a paper or digital accreditation certifying either a successful full vaccination, a recent PCR test, or a full recovery from the COVID virus and a subsequently acquired immunity.

The certificate is designed to work via a QR code which, in turn, gives authorities access to a centralized data system that is valid all over the EU. The application of COVID tests and the issuing of the certificates have to be carried out under certain scrutiny to get the green light from the EU Chamber of Deputies and the EU Council. Up to this point, everything seems simple and smooth.

Alitalia Airbus A330-200 EI-EJM – Photo : Francesco Cecchetti/Airways

Not as Clearcut as It Looks

Well, it is not simple nor smooth. The certificate itself is the result of many compromises reached between the EU Parliament and the EU Council which had different views on its functions and limits. The EU Parliament wanted the certificate to be an unlimited pass giving its holders freedom of movement between countries but there’s a catch; actually, more than one.

Some countries well represented in the EU Council like Germany fear that a premature free-for-all kind of accreditation could represent a health risk. As a result, these countries have insistently requested that governments maintain a certain discretion on the matter.

The agreement reached called for member states to refrain from imposing supplemental restrictions but left open the possibility for each state to “proportionally” impose extra measures if the health situation so requires. THis is the first catch.

Air France Boeing 777-3002ER F-GSQC – Photo : Luca Flores/Airways

Bloc Union vs Member Sovereignty

The second catch is social-economical in nature. One of the requirements to be able to obtain a certificate is to produce a negative test result. However, the EU Parliament wanted its member states to guarantee free tests to avoid the risk of creating class differences and discrimination between well-off citizens, able to afford the costs of said tests, and those less well-off for whom the costs of getting a test may result too expensive, resulting in a no-travel situation.

The impasse was overcome by the EU Commission, which decided to intervene with its own fund of approximately US$120mn (€100m) to promote buffers and avoid social differences.

But the second catch does not end with this decision. States have the final word, with wiggle room for sovereign actions such as boeing able to decide whether to accept one or two vaccine jabs, establish the duration of validity of the test, from 24 to72 hours and even decide how long the acquired immunity will last.

It seems that a consensus on the Green Pass particulars will not immediately restore the total freedom of travel the EU Parliament wants, at least not for the coming summer travel season. The light at the end of the tunnel is there but it is a very dim light, as the Green Pass is looking more like a Green Mess.

Featured image: Lufthansa Airbus 330-300 D-AIKP. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways