European Union leaders on Thursday said that they were making progress toward establishing a digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate, but how and whether such a health document would help to open up travel to or within Europe has yet to be confirmed.
“Tonight, we felt more and more convergence among us on this important topic,” European Council president Charles Michel said about vaccination certificates in remarks following a February 25 meeting of European Union leaders.
“We agreed to continue our work on a common approach,” he added.
In a press conference following the virtual European leadership summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “everyone agreed that we need a digital vaccination certificate,” Reuters reported. Merkel added that the European Commission would need about three months to establish the framework for such digital documents, meaning they could be up and running by the summer.
German news outlet Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that Merkel also stressed that the creation of such certificates “does not mean that only those who have a vaccination passport are allowed to travel.”
Following the talks, European Council members said in a joint statement that for the time being nonessential travel must remain restricted.
Nearly one year after Europe first closed its external borders on March 17, 2020, many foreign travelers—including most Americans—remain banned from entering due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The members noted that the public health situation in Europe is still “serious, and the new variants pose additional challenges. We must therefore uphold tight restrictions while stepping up efforts to accelerate the provision of vaccines.”
They also called for work to continue on a common approach to vaccine certificates and said that they plan to revisit the issue.
European Council president Michel acknowledged that the current situation with the pandemic remains difficult and that member countries are under pressure from citizens to get “back to living in an open society, with more interaction.”
Despite the challenges, Michel said he remains hopeful: “We have the tools, the resources, the capacities to ensure in the coming months that the European Union will play a key role, not only for Europe but internationally, in ensuring that we emerge from this crisis.”