One month after the Commission's proposal for a Digital Green Certificate, Member States representatives in the eHealth Network agreed on guidelines describing the main technical specifications for the implementation of the system. This is a crucial step for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure at EU level. In parallel Member States are encouraged to deploy the needed technical solutions at national level. It is of utmost importance to advance the work on the technical implementation, in parallel to the ongoing legislative process, to ensure a roll-out of Digital Green Certificates across the EU by June 2021.
The agreed technical specification covers data structure and encoding mechanisms, including the QR code, which will ensure that all certificates, whether digital or on paper, can be read and verified across the EU.
The guidelines also describe the EU gateway. Set up by the Commission, it will allow the sharing of electronic signature keys so that the authenticity of Digital Green Certificates can be verified across the EU. No personal data of certificate holders will pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary for the verification.
Finally, the guidelines describe reference implementations for software to issue Digital Green Certificates; a reference app to verify certificates; and a template for a wallet app for citizens to store them. While it will be for Member States to set up these systems at national level, the reference implementations will help speed up deployment as Member States will be able to build on them. The reference implementations will be open source and available by mid-May.
Members of the College said
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, said: “Today is a key milestone for setting up the Digital Green Certificate's infrastructure at EU level. These guidelines, adopted unanimously by national experts, show Member States' commitment and readiness and will provide them with the specifications necessary for a quick implementation. On the Commission's side, we will be ready by 1 June and ready for Member States to connect, like this we can ensure that the system will be in place by the summer season. We stand ready to support Member States in their efforts to roll out the necessary technical infrastructure as soon as possible.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, added: “This is an important step towards making the Digital Green Certificates a reality for citizens by the summer. With vaccinations taking place at an increasing pace across the EU, we are working relentlessly with Member States as we have committed to establish this infrastructure in an ambitious timeframe. They are crucial to assist the Member States in the fight against the pandemic while allowing citizens to exercise their free movement rights in a coordinated and safe manner.”
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said: “This is an important step in the roll-out of the Digital Green Certificates. Last week, we welcomed the adoption of the negotiating mandate by the Council, we are now looking forward to next week's vote in the European Parliament Plenary. We are on track towards our goal of having the certificate in place by June - to enable Europeans to travel safely this summer with minimum restrictions.”
On 17 March, the Commission adopted a legislative proposal establishing a common framework for a Digital Green Certificate.
On 14 April, the Council adopted its mandate to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal. A vote of the European Parliament is expected soon, following its decision to adopt an urgent procedure. Once the Parliament adopts its mandate, the negotiations between the institutions can start.
In order to have Digital Green Certificates rolled out in June, the technical implementation has to advance in parallel to the legislative process. The technical specification guidelines adopted in the eHealth Network, a voluntary network connecting national authorities responsible for eHealth, are building on the close work of the Commission with the Member States. First guidelines had already been adopted in January and updated on 12 March, and a trust framework outline was agreed on 12 March 2021.
The next step on the technical side is now the set-up of national infrastructure, the roll-out of national solutions for issuing, verifying and storing Digital Green Certificates, and the set-up of the EU gateway. After a piloting phase in May, the EU gateway should be ready as of June for Member States to connect. A significant number of Member States expressed interest to participate in the pilot. The Commission will also provide technical and financial support to Member States to on-board the gateway.
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