We’ve all spent a summer, a Christmas and two Easters in a state of (semi-)lockdown.
We were away from loved ones and unable to enjoy a coffee in a café or a beer at the beach of our favourite holiday country. In the process, millions of jobs were lost, or remain at risk. At this point, a return to normality is an emotional as well as an economic need.
Of course, rolling back restrictions must only be done when it is safe to do so. Recklessly abandoning public health measures would only make matters worse, not better.
Let us not forget the lives that were lost. However, as the vaccination drive advances and test kits are no longer scarce, we must now move to take back our freedoms, where possible, in a responsible manner.
I welcomed the European Commission’s proposals to introduce a so-called ‘Digital Green Certificate’ for citizens that are vaccinated against, recovered from, or tested negative for Covid-19.
Having a certificate means you are highly unlikely to have the virus, or pass it on. That would also make it scientifically safe to lift certain restrictions for certificate holders. This brings us to the ultimate twin goals: to give people their longed-for freedoms back and to breathe life into parts of the economy that suffered terribly from the virus.
Let me emphasise that I am not happy about the Certificate. But I also understand that for now, there is probably no alternative.
"For my group, the logical conclusion from these alterations is a change of the Certificate’s name. We proposed, and all other political groups accepted, to use the targeted ‘EU Covid-19 Certificate’, instead of the broad and vague ‘Digital Green Certificate’. I hope that these changes convince people who have legitimate concerns, that we are pushing the proposals in the right direction"
Almost all EU Member States, with governments of all political colours, are developing their own national certificates. Countries around the world are doing the same. A European system could help bring some order to the chaos that will ensue if we end up with dozens of incompatible systems, bilateral agreements, exceptions and derogations.
But the Commission proposals needed improvement. As the lead negotiator for my political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists, I intended to limit and clarify.
We established a European Parliament position with the other negotiators that limits the proposals to the Covid-19 pandemic and with a 12-month sunset clause. We also strengthened data protection guarantees and clarified that the Certificate must facilitate cross-border movement, rather than hinder it.
We also included the option of a recovery certificate based on a serological test. This certificate will be helpful for people who had the virus, but never tested positive because they were asymptomatic, or caught it in the first wave, when tests were scarce.
For my group, the logical conclusion from these alterations is a change of the Certificate’s name. We proposed, and all other political groups accepted, to use the targeted ‘EU Covid-19 Certificate’, instead of the broad and vague ‘Digital Green Certificate’. I hope that these changes convince people who have legitimate concerns, that we are pushing the proposals in the right direction.
As an Italian MEP, I will do my utmost to get a limited, safe and useful Certificate in place, before the start of the summer tourist season.
I know that some of my colleagues do not believe that tourism is a critical sector that needs support. I strongly disagree. Hospitality, travel and tourism were vibrant and growing and provided around 38 million jobs before the pandemic. Yes, 38 million.
Together with the cultural sector, it provides quality of life and makes European countries attractive worldwide. We must get these proposals right and, we must do it now.