MEPs heard consumers when asking for free of charge tests to travel. Will Member States do too?
After intense campaigning for equal and non-discriminatory access to the Digital Green Certificate (EU COVID Certificate), Euroconsumers is pleased to see that the European Parliament has chosen to represent consumers’ concerns: they have asked for the inclusion of free of charge tests in the European Commission’s proposal and called on Member States to avoid adding requirements such as quarantine on top of the Certificate.
A bold position defending consumers’ rights to move freely across Europe
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) chose to listen to consumers’ concerns and expectations when adopting a bold position on the Digital Green Certificate by a large majority (540 to 119) on 28 April 2021. The European Parliament will enter final negotiations with governments in the Council of the EU with a strong voice defending the inclusion of free of charge tests in the Digital Geen Certificate and the avoidance of additional national requirements on top of the Certificate.
No freedom of movement nor equal rights when having to pay for COVID tests
Euroconsumers and its member organisations have been advocating for a solution on the Digital Green Certificate which would provide equal access to travel to all Europeans. Depending on the country, getting a test to travel can be very expensive, creating a situation where some citizens can travel “for free” because they are vaccinated, while others have to pay several hundreds of euros for tests just to be allowed to take a family trip. This would create a situation where the non-vaccinated (yet) would have no freedom of movement nor equal rights.
Prohibitive costs of COVID tests to travel across European countries are a threat to consumers’ rights
The costs of COVID tests to travel are prohibitive in many European countries, as shown by our investigation:
Citizens back the idea of free of charge tests to travel: in a survey Euroconsumers released earlier this month two thirds of respondents (64%) believed free of charge tests should be offered to those who did not have the opportunity to be vaccinated in order to get the Certificate. Almost half (44%) also felt EU Member States shouldn’t impose extra PRC tests or quarantine to Certificate holders.
The survey showed a clear majority of respondents fear the COVID pass might create discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Euroconsumers believes making COVID testing available free of charge is a prerequisite to avoid discriminating against the non vaccinated (yet).
Member States should refrain from adding requirements on top of the COVID Certificate
Responding to MEPs yesterday, the representative of national governments, Ana Paula Zakarias, outlined how complicated it would be to make tests free of charge, adding the issue would “require negotiation” between the Parliament and the Council.
The European Commission’s proposal leaves Member States free to request additional measures such as quarantine or other tests to EU citizens entering their countries with a Digital Green Certificate. Now the European Parliament has agreed that holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to additional travel restriction, a position Euroconsumers has been advocating for.
But the Parliament’s support is only half of the picture since MEPs will have to negotiate an agreement with governments in the Council of the EU. Euroconsumers therefore reiterates its call to Member States to avoid discrimination, not only in speech but also in practice by providing tests free of charge.