MEMBERS of the European Parliament were infuriated when they were told by the European Council all their demands on vaccine certificates had been dismissed.
In the latest showcase of Brussels’ institutional disfunction, the EU Council and Parliament clash over the introduction of so-called “digital green certificates” to allow Europeans to travel this summer.
Negotiations between the two EU institutions are set to continue but the Council has already dismissed MEPs’ proposals on the plan.
Parliament members believe the travel passes should allow people to move around the bloc without further hurdles such as quarantines and should complement affordable COVID tests for those who are yet to be vaccinated but still wish to enjoy their summer holidays across the bloc.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the Spanish Social Democrat leading negotiations for the Parliament, said Parliament is “ready to go a certain distance – provided that the Council is also willing to”.
The goal, he claimed, is to restore free movement across the EU – a “major asset” of the bloc that’s “in a very bad shape because of the measures adopted by member states.”
But his ideas are a no-go for the Council.
The disagreements over the small print of the legislation saw the heads of four Parliament’s groups send a letter to the Portuguese Council presidency to “urge you to exhaust all possibilities and reach a compromise within the Council”.
In a clear denunciation of the dismissal of the democratic process of the only institution elected by EU citizens in Brussels, they added: “We strongly believe the coronavirus vaccination Certificate can only properly function within a solid legal framework established through the normal democratic process.”
MEPs had originally demanded COVID tests to be free of charge if requested as an alternative for those who wish to travel before they received their vaccination.
By the end of Tuesday’s negotiations, Parliament had dropped its demand and asked for the tests to be “affordable” and for EU cash to help pay for them.
They also dropped their demand on the need for people to quarantine despite holding a negative test or a vaccine passport upon entry.
But even these concessions were ignored by the Council.
Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who represents the Parliament’s Renew group in the talks blasted: “Council just wipes it off the table.”
One EU diplomat called Parliament’s position “completely unacceptable in its current form,” adding that MEPs “should stop playing games where they try to power-grab and instead focus on those elements where they have a legitimate right to have a say.”
A second diplomat told Politico: “Is it really in the Parliament’s interest to have EU leaders jumping into this discussion?
“None of the leaders are interested in giving away national competencies.”
López Aguilar said the Commission should step in as an “honest broker” to get Council to move, “not simply to observe the Council misbehaving.”
On Wednesday, EU ambassadors backed plans to allow vaccinated holidaymakers to visit the bloc this summer.
They approved a European Commission proposal from May 3 to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere, EU sources said.
They are expected to set a new list this week or early next week. Based on data from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Britain and a number of other countries would meet the new criteria.
The United States would not, although Americans with proof of vaccination would be welcomed.
One EU diplomat said cases of the Indian variant in Britain would need to be taken into account, although individual EU countries are already setting their own policies. Portugal lifted a four-month travel ban on British tourists on Monday.
Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries, including Australia, Israel and Singapore, can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.