July 24, 2021

“Now we can travel safely.” European leaders make official Covid-19 digital certificate

In the joint statement, Prime Minister António Costa highlighted the importance of the new certificate towards the restoration of freedom of movement, as well as for economic recovery.

“The digital certificate is an inclusive tool. It includes people who have recovered from Covid, people who have tested negative and people who have been vaccinated. Now we can travel safely. Safe for us, for those who welcome us and for our families, neighbors and colleagues when we return“, stressed the prime minister.

“Today we are sending a renewed signal of confidence to our citizens that, together, we will overcome this pandemic”, added António Costa during the signing ceremony of the regulation, which took place this morning at the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels.

Mask in hand, in a statement in English but also in Portuguese, the head of Government added, however, that health rules must continue to be complied with even with this certificate.

Today we take a very important step towards being able to travel safely. An important step to strengthen our economy and our recovery. We now have the opportunity to travel in freedom and safety, but always respecting safety standards, because we must continue to fight this pandemic“he added.

Ursula von der Leyen highlighted, in her intervention, the symbolism of the date, since the Schengen Agreement was signed precisely 36 years ago, on June 14, 1985.

At the time, five Member States decided to open their borders to each other, and this was the beginning of what is today, for many citizens, one of Europe’s greatest achievements: the possibility to travel freely within our Union. the digital certificate gives us new guarantees of an open Europe“, said the person in charge.

The president of the European Commission stressed that this new document is intended to support countries after the most difficult period of the pandemic, where there were major restrictions on travel, praising the agreement reached by European leaders in just two months.

“We can be very proud and I congratulate everyone who made it possible, especially those responsible for the (Portuguese EU) presidency, the European Parliament and the European Commission for their extraordinary work, managed to reach an agreement on the Commission proposal in just two months, 62 days, an absolutely record time,” he said.

“We developed this certificate in record time. It will make traveling easier and will give Europeans back the freedoms they cherish so much.“, also referred Ursula von der Leyen, who also praised the example of European leadership “in the digital age”.

“We can look forward to a good summer, we can look forward to safe travel and we will bring back the spirit of an open Europe that our Union allows,” concluded the Commission president.

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, underlined that this European response is a “fair instrument” that allows all citizens, in an “equal and non-discriminatory manner, to return to normal life”.

Sassoli stressed, however, that the certificate “cannot be a prerequisite for free movement”, as it is a “fundamental right” of the European Union.

The new digital certificate goes into effect from July 1st but has already started to be delivered in several countries of the European Union. In Portugal, the new “passport” that tries to facilitate travel begins to be issued this week by the Shared Services of the Ministry of Health.

According to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, 13 Member States are issuing certificates, although these are only valid from the time the regulation enters into force at the beginning of next month.

The regulation in question was considered one of the main priorities of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union, which ends at the end of June. Proposed by the European Commission last March, the document that frames this certificate resulted from negotiations between the Portuguese presidency and the European Parliament.

This certificate, in digital or paper format, is not mandatory for anyone wishing to travel, nor is it considered a “travel document”, but it may facilitate travel for Europeans. This new document will serve to certify that the holder fulfills one of the three following requirements for unrestricted travel: either he has already been vaccinated, or recovered from an infection, or tested negative to Covid-19.

Thus, the regulation provides that citizens who are fully vaccinated, recovered or tested negative are exempt from restrictions, upon presentation of this free certificate, available in a national language and in English. The document includes a QR code with the necessary data and a digital signature that verifies its authenticity.

Notwithstanding the effort to reopen, the agreement signed this Monday provides for a “brake clause” that allows all Member States to apply temporary restrictive measures to movement if the epidemiological situation worsens.