EU unity splintering: Netherlands hits out over Covid vaccine passports

Grant Shapps outlines the 'way forward' for vaccine passports

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Greek leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis have both been pushing for the certificates to be launched by June 21 as their countries’ economies rely heavily on tourism. But the Dutch Prime Minister said there must be more discussion on ways to implement vaccine passports to allow Europeans to travel this summer.

He said: “The timetable now would be that we all hope that by the 21st of June… there is an agreement.

“For the Netherlands, we would do that as quickly as possible after 21st of June.”

He added: “Between now and 21st of June some big decisions need to be taken.”

Divergences on the issue have already emerged between the European Parliament and the European Council.

And now the European Commission looks set to dismiss Mr Rutte’s tradition period proposals, paving the way for what could look like future clashes between leaders later this month.

A spokesperson for the EU executive told Politico: “I would not agree with this timeline.”

They stressed a gateway system to link national vaccination databases will “go live in June” and involve “all member states.”

The Portuguese Council presidency is “very optimistic” that a deal on the certificates could be reached “as soon as possible”, a senior EU official told Politico on Monday.

They said: “Ideally we want to find an agreement by mid-May.”

Along with vaccinations, the certificate will include information on an individual’s most recent Covid test results and the presence of antibodies.

To avoid delays, the EU will also open up the scheme to third country travellers while eurocrats hold talks with foreign governments to open up possible safe travel routes in the future.

European Commission officials say they are currently working on plans to recognise similar schemes being drawn up by the UK and US.

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One said: “For third countries, technically it’s very simple.

“If there’s an agreement with a third country, then the public keys of the third countries can be loaded into the system and then given to the verifiers.”

Trials for the EU application will begin in the coming weeks with a pledge for the scheme to be up and running by the end of June.

The system is initially aimed at reopening free movement within Europe so will not automatically guarantee access to continental beaches.

But Brussels has promised to work with member states that have vowed to throw open their borders to Britons in the coming months.

Spain and Greece have announced plans to welcome back British holidaymakers this summer to boost their pandemic-stricken economies.

Madrid said Britons will only be welcome if Spaniards can come here on the same terms – the virus passport.

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