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Friday, January 27, 2023
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European audit conference: Effective Covid digital certificate

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The certificate facilitated movement during the pandemic and contributed to coordination

The EU digital COVID certificate contributed to the coordination of travel restrictions between EU countries and was effective in facilitating travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Court of Auditors’ report released today points out.

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The auditors found that the European Commission acted quickly, proposing appropriate technological solutions. However, the degree of use of these tools varied significantly between EU countries, resulting in an uneven impact on mobility. The auditors call on the EU to prepare better so that it can respond more successfully to emergencies in the future.

In March 2020, shortly after the first cases appeared COVID-19 in Europe, EU countries began imposing border controls and travel restrictions. Despite the limited competence it has in terms of public health policy, the European Commission has taken various initiatives in order to limit the impact of the above measures on free movement. In particular, it developed a series of tools to facilitate the movement and detection of COVID-19 cases. These tools included a contact tracing portal, digital passenger tracing forms and a platform for their exchange between Member States, as well as the EU digital COVID certificate. The EU allocated €71 million to the development of these tools.

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The auditors found that the European Commission quickly mobilized this funding as time was pressing. The contact tracing portal went live just seven months after the start of the pandemic, while the EU digital certificate was ready before EU countries finalized their vaccination plans. In contrast, passenger tracking forms were developed with a long delay, since some corresponding national solutions were already available.

Just four Member States used the European Passenger Tracing Digital Form. In practice, the EU’s digital COVID certificate was the only tool used by all Member States, as well as 45 third countries and territories. By the end of March 2022, more than 1.7 billion certificates had been issued. The auditors conclude that only the EU digital COVID certificate contributed to the coordination of travel restrictions between EU countries and was effective in facilitating movement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, the audit highlighted the absence of specific procedures for the long-term use of the tools in question or for their rapid reactivation in case of future need. For example, the existing legal basis of the EU’s COVID digital certificate will expire in June this year and, if renewed, this will be done through the established EU legislative process.

RES-EMP

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