The European Union’s rumored plans to develop a transnational “vaccine passport are now a definite reality.

EU officials confirmed that they’re working on a European “digital green pass” and the European Commission is expected to publish a draft of the legislation by March 17, according to Euronews.

While still controversial, vaccine passports would enable those who’ve been fully vaccinated to move more freely between countries within the bloc, hopefully reenergizing the severely depressed travel sector in the process. The scheme would allow fully vaccinated travelers to bypass member states’ current restrictions, such as 10-day quarantine and mandatory testing measures.

Vaccine passports would potentially link to not only official vaccination certificates, but recent COVID-19 test results and/or documented evidence of previous recovery from COVID-19. The European Commission’s forthcoming draft proposal will set out the details for a common format that can be accepted across the EU and lay the groundwork for the technology’s future interoperability.

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The timeline for actually launching this digital vaccine passport should become clearer once the official proposal has been released, but several countries are hoping that it will arrive in time to facilitate summer travel, which can be a major contributor to their respective economies. Time Out reported that these “passports” likely won’t go live until June, at the earliest.

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Last month, German chancellor Angela Merkel responded to concerns that vaccine passports would lead to discriminatory practices against the unvaccinated: “It will certainly be good to have such a certificate, but that will not mean that only those who have such a passport will be able to travel.”

The European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen, said yesterday, “The (pass) should facilitate Europeans’ lives. The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad—for work or tourism.” She has also disclosed that she believes around 70 percent of all adult citizens of the EU will have been inoculated by summer’s end, calling this a “goal that we’re confident with.”

Acknowledging that concerns may arise among the various member states, von der Leyen explained, “The decision on what you are able to do potentially with such a vaccination certificate is to be decided particularly within each country. But, at the EU level, I believe we should use them to ensure the functioning of the Single Market.”

The European Commission also said yesterday that it would collaborate with the World Health Organization to potentially, eventually extend the system to non-EU nations. A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. will discuss involving itself in the EU vaccine passport program, as well.

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(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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