30th Mar 2023

EU leaders to discuss vaccine certificates

  • EU countries started vaccinating the elderly and hospital workers in the last days of 2020 (Photo: European Commission)

EU leaders on Thursday (21 January) will coordinate on Covid-19 vaccines, new virus variants, and possible vaccination certificates in a videoconference, as the perceived slow roll-out of vaccines and extended lockdowns create frustration in the continent.

EU leaders "intend to start work" on possible vaccines certificates, initially proposed by Greece, for travellers who have already received their jabs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We can agree in principle that we should work on common standards, and interoperability. We want to avoid things being blocked because vaccines are not recognised in one particular country," said a senior EU official.

The goal is to avoid member states not recognising each others' vaccinate documentations, as was the case with Covid-19 tests, where some EU countries did not recognise each others' testing.

Another aim is to avoid border closures and make freedom of movement possible as soon as possible.

"We are not talking about making the vaccine obligatory or having vaccine passports obligatory for all travellers," said the EU official ahead of the summit on Wednesday.

EU diplomats and officials also pointed out that it was not clear if vaccinated people could still carry the virus and infect others without getting sick themselves.

"To rush into a certificate discussion, when you don't even know if you can infect others or not despite being vaccinated, doesn't make sense," said an EU diplomat, adding that he hoped a medical opinion on that could come before the summer.

The certificate is one of many issues around vaccines that highlights the EU's difficult balancing act between rolling out vaccines quickly, while ensuring public confidence in their safety.

Another issue is the authorisation of more vaccines.


The leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Greece also sent a letter to European Council president Charles Michel, telling him that EU governments must send a strong signal to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam to ensure the approval of vaccine candidates is "as efficient as possible".

EMA is due to discuss the approval of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, already authorised in the UK, later this month.

Hungary, for its part, has started procedures to authorise the Chinese and Russian Covid-19 vaccines.

Prime minister Viktor Orbán piled pressure on the national health authority to decide on approving the Chinese one, saying Western versions negotiated by the EU were too slow to arrive.

When asked about the two vaccines that have not been approved by EMA and Hungary's efforts to get them, the EU official said it was not for the summit to judge.

"The European Council is a place where we discuss, and it is not a tribunal, or a trial. It is the responsibility of the Hungarian authorities, a decision made by the government, we will see in the future what are the consequences," the official said.

Several EU leaders also urged the EU Commission in a letter to check on investments made by the EU into pharmaceutical companies to ramp up vaccine production.

The commission, on Tuesday, urged member states to to vaccinate at least 80 percent of health workers and people over the age of 80 by March, and 70 percent of all adults by the end of summer.

Vaccinations are carried out by member states, and the different pace can arise from different strategies, administrative hurdles, logistical constraints, capacities available to keep the vaccines at freezing temperature, and the delivery of vaccines on time.

Another key issue for EU leaders on Thursday will be sharing information on the new variants of Covid-19.

"There is need for coordination, so that we have the same understanding of the new variant," the EU official said.

EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer

The European Commission has announced targets to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination, and the intention of "a common approach" on possible vaccine certificates. Both topics will be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday.

EU agency authorises Moderna vaccine amid blame-game

The European Medicines Agency has authorised the use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by US company Moderna - while the EU is involved in a blame-game over a sluggish vaccine rollout across member states.


Vaccine delay and Russia sanctions debates This WEEK

The director of the European Medicine Agency, Emer Cooke will be quizzed by MEPs in the parliament on vaccine authorisation on Tuesday. EMA is expected to give the green light to the third vaccine at the end of the week.


Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity

From the perspective of international relations, the EU is a rare bird indeed. Theoretically speaking it cannot even exist. The charter of the United Nations, which underlies the current system of global governance, distinguishes between states and organisations of states.


Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown

Turkey goes to the polls in May for both a new parliament and new president, after incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided against a post-earthquake postponement. The parliamentary outcome is easy to predict — the presidential one less so.

Latest News

  1. The overlooked 'crimes against children' ICC arrest warrant
  2. EU approves 2035 phaseout of polluting cars and vans
  3. New measures to shield the EU against money laundering
  4. What does China really want? Perhaps we could try asking
  5. Dear EU, the science is clear: burning wood for energy is bad
  6. Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity
  7. Finnish elections and Hungary's Nato vote in focus This WEEK
  8. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting
  2. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  3. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  4. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  5. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us