Could a 'vaccine passport' in Europe help revive cross-border travel?
By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The European Commission is working on a vaccine certificate, dubbed "Vaxproof", that could help restore cross-border travel, EU officials said, but the plan is dividing EU nations.
The issue has been discussed for months but has led to no compromise because of fears over vaccine hesitancy and privacy.
The EU executive Commission is working on a system for mutual recognition in all 27 EU countries of a certificate proving the holder has been vaccinated against the new coronavirus and therefore needs to undergo no tests on arrival to another country, according to two EU officials briefed on the matter.
The Commission is due to publish next week a new communication with recommendations on strengthening coordination against the pandemic, but is not clear whether detailed proposals on Vaxproof will be included in the document.
A Commission spokeswoman told a news conference on Friday it was important to have a commonly agreed document on vaccinations, but insisted discussions were still under way on how it could be devised.
One of the officials who spoke under condition of anonymity said the certificate would not require the creation of a new database of personal information at EU level, although a certain level of data sharing is inevitable.
EU leaders are expected to discuss the matter and other COVID-19 issues at a video-conference on Thursday.
Many EU states support the plan, mainly those with large tourism sectors such as Greece and Malta, officials briefed on the internal discussions said.
But others are more cautious.
"No outright dismissal but our parliament does fear the certificates may end up being used to determine whether people can travel," a Dutch diplomat said, adding that could create a vaccination obligation via the backdoor.
Vaccine hesitancy is widespread in Europe and compulsory vaccinations or any measures that could indirectly lead to that is seen as a potential boost for vaccine scepticism.
The diplomat said the Netherlands had also concerns over privacy risks. Croatia has called for a careful discussion on the matter before taking decisions, an official said.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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