On 17 March 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate the safe free movement of citizens within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital Green Certificates will be valid in all EU Member States.
What is a Digital Green Certificate?
A Digital Green Certificate is a digital proof that a person has either:
- been vaccinated against COVID-19
- received a negative test result or
- recovered from COVID-19
Key features of the certificate: Digital and/or paper format, with QR code, free of charge, in national language and English, safe and secure, valid in all EU countries.
How will citizens get the certificate?
National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by hospitals, test centres, health authorities.
The digital version can be stored on a mobile device. Citizens can also request a paper version. Both will have a QR code that contains essential information, as well as a digital seal to make sure the certificate is authentic.
How will it help free movement?
The Digital Green Certificate will be accepted in all EU Member States. It will help to ensure that restrictions currently in place can be lifted in a coordinated manner.
When travelling, every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the EU, who holds a Digital Green Certificate, should be exempted from free movement restrictions in the same way as citizens from the visited Member State.
If a Member State continues to require holders of a Digital Green Certificate to quarantine or test, it must notify the Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.
How will the certificate work?
- The Digital Green Certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against falsification.
- When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified.
- Each issuing body (e.g. a hospital, a test centre, a health authority) has its own digital signature key. All of these are stored in a secure database in each country.
- The European Commission will build a gateway. Through this gateway, all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data encoded in the certificate does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The Commission will also help Member States to develop a software that authorities can use to check the QR codes.
Will citizens who are not yet vaccinated be able to travel to another EU country?
Yes. The Digital Green Certificate should facilitate free movement inside the EU. It will not be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU. The Digital Green Certificate can also prove the results of testing, which is often required under applicable public health restrictions.
The certificate is an opportunity for Member States to adjust the existing restrictions on public health grounds. We would expect them to take this proof of people’s COVID-19 status into account to facilitate travel.
Does it matter which vaccine citizens received?
Vaccination certificates will be issued to a vaccinated person for any COVID-19 vaccine.
When it comes to waiving free movement restrictions, Member States will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines which received EU marketing authorisation.
Member States may decide to extend this also to EU travellers that received another vaccine.
What data does the certificate include?
The Digital Green Certificate contains necessary key information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier.
The certificates will only include a limited set of information that is necessary. This cannot be retained by visited countries. For verification purposes, only the validity and authenticity of the certificate is checked by verifying who issued and signed it. All health data remains with the Member State that issued a Digital Green Certificate.
By the EU – The Commission presented a legal proposal on Digital Green Certificates. The European Parliament and EU Member States will need to approve the proposal
By the Member States – Prepare for the logistical roll-out of the certificates (issuance and verification)
By the EU – The Commission will set up a digital infrastructure that would facilitate the authentication of the Digital Green Certificates
By the Member States – Introduce the necessary changes in their national health records systems
The Commission is working with the World Health Organization to ensure that certificates issued in the EU can be recognised elsewhere in the world as well. The Commission is also in contact with ICAO, the international organisation representing air travel.