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Portugal supports EU plan for ‘green passports’ to be operational by June

Portugal is one of a group of southern European countries giving the thumbs-up to Brussels’ plans for a ‘green (Covid) passport’ to facilitate holiday travel throughout the bloc this summer.

But northern countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands are ‘not so sure’ – with the epidemiological situation in both France and Germany far from under control right now.

The fact that international reports suggest “Europe is facing a 3rd pandemic wave” – at a point when numbers in Portugal continue to fall – does not augur well for the notion of a ‘travel-free summer’, green passports or otherwise.

Nonetheless, this was the subject under discussion in Brussels yesterday, and the details now are being shared.

The ‘green passport’ will not be mandatory – that is perhaps the first point to emerge from discussions as elsewhere the whole European roll-out of vaccines is in quagmire. It is impossible to imagine a situation where a ‘vaccination passport’ would be needed when almost everyone who wants to travel cannot get access to a vaccine.

The second salient point is that the passport won’t hinge on vaccination. It is simply designed to show the carrier’s medical ‘situation’: whether he/ she has had Covid and recovered from it; has he/she tested negative in the 72-hours before travel, or been vaccinated.

Explain reports, the “objective is for the document to function as a kind of boarding card for foreign travel, allowing the carrier to avoid quarantine or tests whenever he/ she travels”.

The format will be either digital or paper, with a QR code for electronic identification.

The idea is for an online platform “to guarantee that all certificates can be verified throughout Europe and support Member States in the technical implementation of the certificate”.

According to the proposal – which now has to be debated in the European Parliament and European Council – the green passport will be free, distributed by health authorities and in the language of the travelling citizen, as well as in English.

Home-testing results for Covid-19 will not be acceptable for inclusion, say reports, as the European Commission believes there is too much margin in these for error.

Europe’s justice commissioner Didier Reynders has stressed that these passports will only be used during the pandemic. 

“Once the World Health Organisation has decreed the end of the pandemic, this instrument will cease to be used”, he said yesterday.

It is now simply a question of European MPs ‘agreeing’ on the proposal, or otherwise, in time for the summer season. Meantime, individual countries will continue with their own stipulations over access. In Portugal’s case these continue to be that travellers from ‘green listed countries’ can enter on the basis of a negative Covid test taken up to 72 hours before arrival.

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