The Portuguese presidency of the EU has said they “will do everything” so that the legislative process for the implementation of a digital health certificate is concluded by June, said the Secretary of State for European Affairs.

“The presidency will do everything to have this legislation on the certificate ready in June. It is certainly one of the priorities of the Portuguese presidency”, said Ana Paula Zacarias.

Both Zacarias and the vice-president of the Commission responsible for inter-institutional relations, Maros Sefcovic, who also participated in the press conference, stressed however, that “the timetable is very tight” and for the digital certificate to be operational in June, there is “a tremendous amount of homework ahead”, to be done at both European and national levels.

Ana Paula Zacarias indicated that there is an “ad hoc group” that is already working on “very technical elements”, due to the system having to be “totally interoperable”, which requires “a lot of preparation also at national level”, so that “when the legislative proposal becomes a regulation, it can be implemented immediately” in the Member States.

“We have a very tight schedule, we have to work hard at the Council level and in discussions with the European Parliament,” she said.

The Secretary of State reiterated the importance of this digital certificate: “It is important for the Member States to gather all the information on the vaccination situation, but also on people who have recovered from Covid-19 and those who have had negative tests”.

“The idea is also to facilitate free movement as early as possible. We know that the situation now is not easy across Europe, a lot of caution is needed, but this certificate gives us a glimmer of hope that by the summer, normal life can be resumed a little,” she said.

For his part, Commissioner Sefcovic strongly pushed the idea of the need to work hard to make the certificate a reality in the summer, thanking the Portuguese presidency “for giving such priority to this legislative proposal”.

“We need to be ready in three months, in mid-June, which means that there is a lot of work to complete in a matter of weeks. In practice, this means that everyone should do their homework. First, the legislative proposal must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Second, technical work must be done at both European and national levels, so that the entire system is operational as soon as the legislation enters into force”, he stressed.

Sefcovic expressed satisfaction with the discussion in the General Affairs Council on this matter, pointing out that there was “strong support” from the 27 EU Members to the certificate.

“Of course, the ministers underlined the importance of respecting non-discrimination, which is included in our proposal,” he said, pointing out that when also contemplating cases of people previously infected and recovered and testing, the certificate does not require vaccination as a way to access this ‘free pass’.

On 17 March, the European Commission proposed the creation of a digital certificate to prove the vaccination, testing or recovery of Covid-19, aimed at resuming free movement.

Working in a similar way to a boarding pass for travel, this free pass, according to the Commission’s proposal, will be available in digital and / or paper format, will have a QR code to be easily read by electronic devices and will be made available free of charge in the national language of the citizen and in English.

Both the digital version (which can be stored on a mobile device such as a mobile phone) and the paper version, will have a QR code with essential information, as well as a digital stamp to guarantee the authenticity of the certificate.

The community executive also wants this free pass to fully respect the privacy rules of citizens’ data and to be valid in all EU countries.

It will be up to the national authorities of the Member States to issue these certificates.

The idea of creating this digital certificate to allow the recovery of the travel and tourism sector started to be discussed earlier this year, at the initiative of the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriákos Mitsotákis, and was later supported by the Portuguese head of government, António Costa.

If it gets the green light from all the countries, this digital certificate should take effect before the summer to allow the tourism sector to resume.