European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed earlier this week that Brussels is set to propose a digital vaccination passport across the bloc.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on Tuesday that European plans to introduce COVID passports would be at odds with voluntary vaccination, stressing that Russian citizens should not be discriminated against in any way by the move.
“This means people will be forced [to get vaccinated], if people, of course, want to travel, and in Europe, people can hardly imagine their lives without moving [freely] between the EU member states”, the minister noted.
EU leaders have agreed to introduce electronic certificates by the summer.
The certificates are expected to confirm that a person got vaccinated or developed antibodies after surviving the disease.
“Many people say that this idea is contrary to the rules of democracy, because there is a decision in the EU that vaccination is voluntary. If this COVID passport is introduced, it will be against the principle of voluntariness.”
“So people will be forced. We’ll see how it ends. Hopefully, the decision will be made taking into consideration the opinion of the member countries and not just imposed on them. The voluntariness factor is highly important,” Lavorv said at a press conference held after negotiations with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
The Russian diplomat found it difficult to predict how this would affect Russian citizens’ opportunities.
“We must wait until there is a final solution to this problem. We have informed our EU colleagues that we are counting on decisions that will not discriminate Russian citizens,” Lavrov noted.
In the meantime, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès stressed that coronavirus passports can’t be mandatory for crossing borders between EU member states.
“We fear that vaccination will become a kind of filter for entering the country. We consider this unacceptable and discriminatory. Our vaccination system is not mandatory for everyone, therefore either you make vaccination mandatory, which is not our choice, or you are discriminating against free movement, which is unacceptable”, Wilmès said.
The idea to introduce vaccination passports has prompted mixed reaction from EU member states. French and German authorities have reportedly noted it is too early to permit the passports due to weak data on vaccine efficacy.
According to them, groups that are not prioritised to receive vaccines could also face discrimination.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, for his part, has pushed for a digital pass similar to Israel’s and pledged make a state visit to Tel Aviv along with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen later in March.
At the same time, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has reportedly said it will not be able to provide at least half of the promised vaccine doses to the bloc in the second quarter of the year, prompting a major delay in European vaccination campaigns.