Remarks from Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi:
The Covid-19 pandemic has posed perhaps unprecedented challenges for the European Union. Let’s be honest, many people were worried if the community was able to rise to the challenge, but if you look at the recent events, you can say that, despite all the bungling, the EU may eventually come out of this crisis stronger. One of the most important signs of recovery is the EU Digital COVID Certificate passed by the European Parliament this week.
I vividly remember how worried we were a year ago reading about the kind of summer we were going to face. The prospects could hardly have been called rosy: the Schengen zone had practically collapsed and European countries, after several decades of free movement, were once again separated by closed borders, resulting in a nearly complete stoppage of international traffic. And, although most member states followed the EU’s recommendations and allowed cross-border traffic for the summer, citizens still had to learn and comply with the widest spectrum of member state regulations. The countries adopted completely arbitrary measures with regard to who they allowed to enter their territories. As autumn was approaching, the situation became even more critical. One after the other, European countries introduced regulations they thought favourable, again on a national basis. Unfortunately, we have seen such examples of excessive measures as a nearly complete exclusion of foreign travels or the quasi banning of other member state citizens from certain countries.
The ideal of European togetherness and community has long seemed so distant as in those months. Furthermore, the European Union appeared to be unable to take control of the situation at first.
In addition, the solution was also hindered by some populist politicians running amok, such as when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán immediately tried to abuse the situation to sabotage the EU and distance his country from it. Of course, every challenge brings a new opportunity, too. The common recovery fund and, despite its fumbling and errors, the common vaccine procurement project clearly showed Europe had the will and the ability to come out of this crisis stronger.
Symbolically, the European Parliament adopted the concept of the EU Digital Covid Certificate on the same week when the legislative body could finally return to Strasbourg, its official headquarters, after so many long months.
Since the certificate will be available as of 1 July, we can put an end to the time of European countries testing travellers’ patience with their increasingly chaotic restrictions.
Why is the newly adopted Covid certificate so important? This document will be available for everyone. Its release is subject to either an anti-Covid vaccination or a negative PCR test result, or recovery from the disease. Its format is unified and it is accepted by all member states. It is not a travel document, i.e., it cannot be made mandatory for anyone and its holders cannot be subjected to travel restrictions, either. This allows the European vaccine certificate to become a tool that truly helps rather than hinders free movement, the latter of which has repeatedly been raised as a concern by the critics of the concept. Furthermore, contrary to some member state practices that refuse to recognize PCR test results, the Covid certificate will also be available to those who could not or would not be vaccinated for some reason.
After all those long months, Europe, as of July this year, seems to once again become a community where the right to free movement is guaranteed for everyone. Europe has won.
And what happens now to the populists who wanted to use the pandemic to incite anti-EU sentiments? Well, they will soon have to face some tough questions coming from their citizens. For example, Viktor Orbán may as well start to prepare his answers for the questions on the supposed benefit of vaccinating a part of the Hungarian population with Russian and Chinese products that were not approved by the European Medicines Agency and therefore are not accepted by several European countries. This is indeed a burning question because, Covid certificate or not, EU member states are still not required to accept those vaccines.