The introduction of the Digital Green Certificate: the legal aspect of a temporary emergency measure

Following numerous negotiations among the Member States of the EU, on May 20th of 2021, the European Parliament and the Commission decided to issue a temporary European Digital Green Certificate for Covid-19. The goal is to provide individuals with a document, which shall confirm their vaccination or a recent negative PCR test or their recovery from the virus. The digital certificate shall be available in both digital and hard copy form and shall be used by individuals for free traveling within the EU, without the need of a quarantine and/or other limitations.

The legal aspect of such a certificate shall be the restoration of the right to the free movement of individuals within the EU, which is one of the fundamental rights of every Citizen of an EU Member State. This ground principle, provided in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and later on completed by EU secondary legislation and the Case Law of the Court of Justice, has been significantly affected during the Covid-19 pandemic, due to the closing of borders and the restrictions applied during this emergency time. However, the central organs of the EU have been working towards the restoration of these rights, while protecting the safety and security of all Citizens of the territory.

The Digital Certificate shall in reality be divided into three (3) different certificates, one vaccination certificate , one test certificate (PCR) and one recovery from Covid-19 certificate. According to the new european legal framework, all Member States must issue, recognize and accept the Digital Certificates issued by another Member State, on the entirety of the EU territory.

The most important legal and practical results deriving from this Digital Green Certificate includes the following:

i) Accessible and secure certificates for all EU Citizens: the certificates shall be issued from an official governmental gateway and shall contain a QR code allowing verification for authenticity.

ii) Non-discrimination: All Individuals, both vaccinated and non-vaccinated shall be able to obtain such a Digital Green Certificate and benefit from equal rights.

iii) Data protection: The Digital Green Certificate shall only include essential personal information which shall be secure and used for verification and validity purposes only, for the deterrence of fraudulent and/or forged documents. The personal data contained in the Certificates shall not be stored in the destination Member States and no central data base shall be created on a EU level. The catalogue containing the organs processing this personal data shall be public, in order for citizens to be able to exercise their legal rights in accordance to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It is very important to state that the Digital Green Certificate system is merely a temporary measure which shall be suspended as soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declares the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and the international health emergency.

The present article is for informational purposes only and does not, under any circumstances, constitute legal advice. For further information on the subject, please contact our firm and one of our attorneys shall be glad to assist you.

N. Kalifatidou
Advocate – Legal Consultant
Arsen Theofanidis LLC