The European Commission published its proposal for the “Digital Green Certificate,” a vaccine certification recognized throughout the European Union, on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Hungarian citizens, the proposal only suggests the complete recognition of EU authorized vaccines, leaving inoculations with Chinese and Russian vaccines up to member states’ approval.
The proposal states that EU member states requiring proof of vaccination for travel would be required to accept vaccination certificates recognized under the Digital Green Certificate system. The commission specifically says this is only required for vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency, not those which have been given emergency licensing.
EU Vaccines Only, the Rest Is up to Member States
The Commission’s proposal reads, “This obligation would be limited to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation, but Member States can decide to accept other vaccines in addition.”
The proposal also suggests that those who are not vaccinated should be given the same ability to travel in the EU with COVID-19 test certificates and certificates that prove a the holder has recovered from the virus.
According to Didier Reynders, Commission for Justice, “The Digital Green Certificate will not be a precondition to free movement and it will not discriminate in any way.”
The EU authorized vaccine passport will be available both digitally and physically, and will contain a QR code which must be shown when travelling to other EU countries.
The Commission thus suggests that the Union only recognize vaccination certificates with EU authorized vaccines, while leaving it up to EU member states to decide whether they will recognize Hungarians who were vaccinated with Chinese and Russian vaccines.
A Temporary Solution, Less Beneficial for Hungary
Not only is it an issue that Chinese and Russian vaccines may not be recognized, but it is an even bigger issue that Hungary’s vaccine certificates have stopped sharing the type of vaccine used in inoculation.
This means that Hungarians travelling in the EU would, given the Commission’s current suggestion and the state of Hungary’s vaccine certificates, only be able to use a negative PCR test or prove that they have recovered from the virus.
If the Hungarian vaccine certificate does begin to include the vaccine type used for inoculation, anyone vaccinated with Sinopharm or Sputnik V will face uncertainty.
There could be significant negative political consequences to the EC proposal’s suggestion that EU member states can, if they wish, choose not to recognize vaccines which the EMA has not approved.
Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás stated that if other EU countries do not recognize Hungary’s vaccination certificates, “then on the basis of reciprocity Hungary will not accept the certificates of countries which do not accept those of Hungary.”
This system is not permanent, and will only be in place until the World Health Organization declares the end of the state of emergency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hungarian Gov’t Wants Vaccines Not Passports
With regards to the digital vaccine certificate system not recognizing all vaccines Hungary employs in its vaccination program, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that the government will not recognize the “Covid passport” if it does not authorize Chinese and Russian vaccines.
Szijjártó said the certificate must account for vaccines which are licensed by the European Medicines Agency as well as those which have been given emergency licensing by EU member states.
On Wednesday, the government’s communications center (KTK) stated that member states are the ones creating the vaccine certificates authorized by the Digital Green Certificate system, meaning that all vaccinated Hungarian citizens will receive it, regardless of which type of vaccine they were inoculated with.
They emphasized that they do not want passports from Brussels, but vaccines.
Socialist MEP Says EU Authorization is the Only Solution
According to European Parliament member representing MSZP István Ujhelyi, the issue can only be resolved if Russian and Chinese vaccine producers submit their products to the EMA for testing and authorization in the EU.
Viktor Orbán would act responsibly if he requested Russian and Chinese partners to submit their authorization requests to the union’s authorities.”
Ujhelyi also brought up the question of how, after the state of emergency is lifted, the union will accept people arriving from outside of its borders who may not be vaccinated with EU authorized vaccines.
Summer Consensus for Vaccine Passport Is Unlikely
The vaccine passport gained its initial support from Southern European countries, who hope to save their tourism sector by allowing the use of the certification in time for the summer.
According to 24.hu, however, it is unheard of that such wide-ranging EU legislation would reach consensus in such a relatively short period of time.
In order for the certificate system to be brought into effect, it needs to be accepted by the union’s member states as well as the European Parliament.
Considering how divided both member states and the European Parliament are on Europe’s issues, it seems slightly unrealistic to expect consensus from them within three months. Still, it is not impossible.
It may be difficult to even organize such a digital certification system, since there is currently no European database recording information around vaccinations.
Featured photo illustration by MTI/EPA/Sascha Steinbach