COVID-19: EU committee of the Federal Council deals with “digital green certificate”

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Roaming and import controls on animals and animal products for antibiotics were also on the agenda

Vienna (PK) A current proposal for a regulation due to the corona pandemic was the subject of the debate in the Federal Council’s EU committee today. The members of the Federal Council dealt with the “digital green certificate”, with which vaccinations, tests or survived COVID-19 diseases will be documented in an EU-standardized way in the future. Also on the agenda were proposals for regulations to extend roaming at domestic prices and to check animals and animal products for antimicrobial substances imported from third countries.

“Digital green certificate” for vaccinations, tests and recoveries from COVID-19 should come at record speed

The European Union has submitted a proposal for a regulation on the “digital green certificate” for vaccinations, tests or recovery in connection with COVID-19. Because more and more people are being vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from an illness, a uniform document to certify vaccination or recovery is to be created, which should support the freedom of travel and movement for these people and for those who have been tested. Digital barcodes and hardcopy printouts are provided, with which the relevant information can be called up. The exact design is left to the member states, but there are uniform specifications as to which information must be included. In addition to the data necessary for personal identification, this includes information about the vaccine administered or the type, time and place as well as the result of the test or information about a previous infection with the virus. The data must be given in at least the official language and in English. Digital green certificates should be available free of charge to EU citizens and, via mirror regulation, also to third-country nationals who are legally resident or resident in a member state. The presence of a vaccination certificate must not be a condition for entry, it is emphasized.

Austria supports the development of an EU certificate. With regard to the restoration of cross-border mobility and tourism, the development, issuance and mutual recognition of standardized, secure vaccination certificates are particularly important, according to the statement of the Federal Chancellery. The gradual easing of freedom of movement should only go as far as the epidemiological situation allows. The digital solution must be practical, easy to use and secure in terms of data protection. The Commission emphasizes that the issuance of such certificates should be suspended as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is over. A representative from the Federal Chancellery in the Federal Council’s EU committee emphasized that it is a brand new regulation that is currently being negotiated and is to be adopted in record time. It is intended to facilitate the exercise of the free movement of persons in pandemic times. The tight schedule is already in place and the experts are working towards it coming into force on June 26th.

Andrea Eder-Gitschthaler (ÖVP / S) welcomed the project. As a senior representative, however, it was important to her to point out that the certificate must also be available in analog form and that an alternative exhibition, for example by telephone, must be made possible. The expert assured that this aspect would be supported by Austria in the negotiations. Sonja Zwazl (ÖVP / N) was also positive about a uniform European approach. On the part of the economy and tourism, it is important to be able to adjust to the regulations before the end of June, she emphasized. Christian Buchmann (ÖVP / St) inquired about a plan with regard to travel to or from third countries, especially the Balkans, in view of the different vaccines approved.

The expert confirmed that this region is a big topic. A list of the commission with vaccines that are to be recognized is planned. Karl-Arthur Arlamovsky (NEOS / W) also welcomed the regulation and wanted to make sure that the Austrian system is compatible with the European digital green certificate. Austria is already very far in the development of the system in a European comparison, it is in any case taken into account that it must be interoperable, according to the expert.

Stefan Schennach (SPÖ / W) was critical of the planned regulation and warned against creating privileges for a few people in view of the sluggish progress in vaccination and thus dividing the population. The expert emphasized that no elite should be created and that Austria had therefore campaigned for test and recovery data to be included in the certificate. When asked by Schennach and Günther Novak (SPÖ / K) about the duration of the immunity and the validity of the antibody tests, the representative of the Federal Chancellery stated that this topic was controversial and would be discussed for even longer. Johannes Hübner (FPÖ / W) pointed out that the vaccinations do not demonstrably protect against transmission of the virus and, against this background, fundamentally questioned the added value of the certificate for the states. The representative from the Federal Chancellery replied that the certificate was more broadly based and therefore also offered insurance with regard to tests and recoveries.

Domestic roaming regulation extended by ten years

Another proposal for a regulation related to freedom of travel was discussed in the committee. The abolition of end-user roaming surcharges in the EU has been in force since mid-2017. Now, according to a new version of the regulation, the maximum wholesale charges are to be adjusted in order to ensure the sustainability of the provision of retail roaming services at domestic prices. Roaming providers must ensure that their services are provided under the same conditions as for domestic use. In addition, new measures are foreseen to increase transparency at the retail level with regard to quality of service, value-added services and emergency services. The responsible ministry welcomes these regulations and is working with the national government authority on their practical implementation, but the EU does not yet have a specific timetable. The “Roam like at home” principle has proven to be a successful model, said the representative from the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. The revision of the regulation therefore provides for an extension to a further ten years and aims to resolve problem areas that have emerged.

Marlene Zeidler-Beck (ÖVP / N) described the abolition of roaming surcharges as an indispensable part of vacation and business trips and therefore welcomed the new version of the regulation, in particular the improved transparency in the quality of service and emergency services. Christian Buchmann (ÖVP / St) asked about the danger of monopolies or oligopolies in the mobile communications sector, which the expert denied. Stefan Schennach (SPÖ / W) was just as positive about the extension of the regulation that consumers would feel in their wallets. He wanted to know whether the principle would continue to apply to Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, and whether the United Kingdom would be included. The latter has not yet been clarified, according to the department representative. In the case of the other states, it is envisaged that they will adopt the regulation on association agreements. Marco Schreuder (Greens / W) asked about the conformity of a limitation of “EU free units” in some mobile phone contracts. This could be possible through an exception, says the expert.

Controls for antibiotics on imports of animals and animal products

Corrections are planned within the framework of the new animal health law by creating a legal basis for the application of the new EU control regulation. It is about import controls of antimicrobially active substances, the use of which is restricted or prohibited according to EU law. The aim is to ensure uniform controls in the area of ​​live animals and products of animal origin at the EU’s external borders. The Ministry of Health has no objection to this. The new animal drug law has deepened the rules that antibiotics may not be used to promote performance or growth. In some third countries, however, this is the case. The regulation ensures that the import of animals and animal products from third countries can be controlled, according to a representative from the Ministry of Health.

Stefan Schennach (SPÖ / W) described the regulation as positive, after all, animal health is also human health. Andreas Arthus Spanring (FPÖ / N) explained that his parliamentary group is always critical when directives become regulations. In this case, however, this is to be welcomed. Like his parliamentary group colleague Johannes Hübner (FPÖ / W), he also called for an EU-wide regulation for the transport of live animals and the often associated cruelty to animals. Martin Preineder (ÖVP / N) described the regulation as welcome from the point of view of agriculture, because it strengthens the level playing field between domestic products and animal products from third countries. In his view, a similar regulation on animal husbandry would be desirable. The expert from the Ministry of Health told von Spanring, Huebner and Preineder that the department had been active in the field of animal welfare for a long time and was also repeatedly initiating initiatives in this area at the European level. (End) kar


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COVID19 committee Federal Council deals digital green certificate

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