- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countrieson India’s interests, Indian diaspora
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Europe’s ‘Green Passport’ and its impact on India
Definition: On July 1, the European Union implemented the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) or the “Green Passport”, which allows ease of intra-European travel for passengers who have taken one of four recognised vaccines.
- The list of approved vaccines does not include India made COVISHIELD & COVAXIN.
- The move led to a sharp protest from India, as well as the African Union, as concerns grow over vaccine passports that discriminate against travellers from developing countries with limited access to vaccines.
What does the EUDCC entitle passengers to?
- The EUDCC, or the Green Passport, which is in the form of a digital QR code, attests that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
- It is recognised by all 27 EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway for passengers within Europe, who are bound not to need separate documentation for intra-EU travel.
How will it impact Indian travellers?
- The EUDCC will impact Indians notionally at present, as only essential travel is allowed into EU countries and special permission has to be taken for those travelling from India.
- With global concerns over the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, more restrictions are in place for Indians travelling abroad.
- The European Union has pointed out that the EUDCC is only meant for passengers within the EU.
- According to the EU, the Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield was a “biologically” different product and it hence needs to apply separately for approval/ clearance to be included in the vaccine list of EUDCC.
- Meanwhile, the road seems harder for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, as unlike Covishield, it has not received recognition from even WHO and is in the process of completing its application there.
- India’s concerns are three-fold.
- It feels vaccine passports will restrict passengers from countries that don’t have the same access to vaccines and will increase vaccine inequality.
- It also argues that the EU should recognise Covishield as it is no different from other AstraZeneca-licensed vaccines.
- More broadly that all Indian-approved vaccines should be given recognition worldwide, and that passengers can be certified via the Co-WIN website
How did India register its protests?
- During his visit to Italy for the G20 ministerial conference last week, External Affairs Minister registered a strong protest in his meetings with European counterparts.
- Also, government sources indicated that India was prepared to initiate reciprocal harsh quarantine measures against countries that discriminated against Indians.
- Officials point out that Covishield was distributed to 95 countries, mainly low- and middle-income countries of the global South, and the EU action discriminates against all of them.
- There is a hint of racism, they claim, in the fact that all vaccines cleared by the EMA are those that have been taken by residents in Europe and North America, whereas the ones excluded are those made and distributed far and wide in the rest of the world by Russia, India and China.
What is the WHO’s stand?
- WHO has held categorically that vaccine passports should not be made mandatory for travel and should be optional, stating that proof of COVID-19 vaccination should not be required as a condition of entry and exit from a country.
With at least nine countries, including Austria, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland, agreeing to independently make exemptions for Covishield, and Estonia accepting both Covishield and Covaxin, there is hope that enough pressure will build on the EMA to include exemptions for Indian vaccines as well.
Connecting the dots: