The Greek government has unveiled the EU’s first Covid passport, described by the country’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as a “fast lane to facilitate travel”, after a successful trial of the technology.
At a launch in Athens, Mitsotakis, who had called for a way to open Europe in time for the summer tourist season, said the system would be operational in Greece before a deadline set by Brussels for the 1st of July.
“It’s especially important for Greece as a tourist country, but I think it’s important for every state, because what we want to do is restore freedom of movement,” he said. . “Essentially, it includes all the information that a Member State would need to accommodate a traveler without imposing additional restrictions: proof of vaccination, proof of negative PCR test, or antigen or proof of [past] diseases. “
The technology was presented following a successful trial of the interoperability of the Greek passport with systems in Germany and Iceland.
Hospitals, testing centers and health authorities, among others, will issue digital or paper certificates providing proof of a negative PCR test result, full vaccination, or proof of having had the virus. A QR code on the certificate, which can be stored on a mobile, can be scanned by border guards.
The EU’s system will be linked to those of other countries, such as the US and UK, although the UK government has yet to provide details on its model. If the UK government does not launch such a passport, fully vaccinated Britons who wish to travel will be issued the EU digital or paper certification in their destination country upon presentation of the appropriate documents from home.
Any EU citizen or third country national staying or legally residing in the bloc who holds the so-called ‘digital green certificate’ should be exempt from restrictions on free movement.
If an EU country continues to require certificate holders to be quarantined or tested, it must notify the European Commission and the 26 member states to justify this decision.
Charles Michel, the former Belgian Prime Minister who is President of the European Council, said: “The free movement of people is a great European achievement, and that is why it is so important to demonstrate after this Covid crisis that you are in measure to guarantee the free movement of citizens. “
Greece has moved faster than most of the 27 EU member states by opening up to tourists before the Covid passport was operational. The government allows UK tourists to visit without any quarantine requirement if they have proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival or proof of two vaccinations taken at least 14 days prior the trip.