On March 17, 2021, the European Commission proposed a regulation for the creation of a Digital Green Certificate (“DGC”) to facilitate safe free movement of people during the pandemic. The DGC will be valid in all EU member states and open also for Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The DCG will consequently be suspended once the World Health Organization declares the end of the international health emergency.

The certificate will be aimed at proving either: (i) that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19; (ii) that he/she has tested negative against COVID-19; or (iii) that he/she has recovered after contracting COVID-19.

The DGC will be issued in digital form or on paper, with a univocal QR code that acts as a digital signature, and will be available free of charge in English and in the official language(s) of the issuing member state for both EU and non-EU citizens, provided that the latter have a valid right to reside in the EU or to travel towards a member state.

Three principles should be mentioned:

  1. All people (vaccinated or not) should benefit from a DGC when travelling in the EU. This means that where member states accept proof of vaccination to waive certain public health restrictions (such as mandatory quarantine or testing), they would be required to accept – under the same conditions – proof of vaccination given via the DGC. In principle, this is valid for those vaccines that received an EU-wide authorization, but member states can decide to accept other vaccines as well.
  2. If, contrary to the above, a member state continues to require holders of a DGC to quarantine or test, it must notify the Commission and all other member states and explain the reasons for such measures.
  3. The principles of data protection (including data retention) continue to apply. Therefore:
  • the personal data contained in the DGC shall be processed for the purpose of accessing and verifying the information included in the certificate in order to facilitate the exercise of the right of free movement within the Union during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • the personal data included in the DGC shall be processed by the competent authorities of the member state of destination, or by the cross-border passenger transport services operators required by national law to implement certain public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, to confirm and verify the holder’s vaccination, testing or recovery status. For this purpose, the personal data shall be limited to what is strictly necessary and shall not be retained;
  • the personal data processed for the purpose of issuing the DGC, including the issuance of a new certificate, shall not be retained longer than is necessary for its purpose and in no case longer than the period for which the DGC may be used to exercise the right to free movement.

The proposal is currently being considered by the European Parliament, and is planned to be ready before the summer. Link to the full proposal here.