EU Edges Toward Certificates for Vaccines, More Curbs on Exports

European Union leaders moved closer to a deal on vaccine certificates, which could pave the way for travel to resume, while asking for tougher curbs on the export of shots.

During a virtual summit on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel eased her stance on the certificates, backing work on such a document, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Merkel, however, left open what legal implications such a certificate would have.

The convergence among the leaders comes as the bloc’s tourism-dependent economies, which suffered the steepest contractions last year, are determined to open their doors to people who have been inoculated. Others, however, have resisted such moves, citing a lack of convincing evidence that vaccination halts transmission as well as concerns over granting certain citizens special privileges and legal considerations.

French President Emmanuel Macron was more skeptical during the discussion, voicing concerns about still unknown factors including the length of vaccine immunity, contagiousness of those who have been vaccinated as well as legal and ethical issues regarding the protection of personal data, according to two people, who asked not to be identified because the discussion was private.

Tech Competition

Not moving with a digital certificate at the EU level could carry other risks, some participants warned. During the discussion Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a key proponent of the idea, warned that if the EU doesn’t establish such a certificate, someone else would do it instead such as a large technology company, according to a person familiar with his remarks.

Meanwhile, some leaders pushed for a tougher approach to giving export authorization to companies that haven’t respected vaccine distribution commitments to the bloc, according to an EU official. The hard line was supported by Italy’s newly appointed premier Mario Draghi, who also called for considering prioritizing the first doses of vaccines to maximize coverage across the population, officials said.

During the discussion, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sought to reassure leaders that any vaccine supply shortages will soon be over. According to a slide shown to EU leaders, which was obtained by Bloomberg, available doses in the following quarters will be sufficient to vaccinate the bulk of the bloc’s population.

Draghi wasn’t convinced, according to another official, saying deliveries in the second and third quarters couldn’t be predicted.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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