Tech

Digital proof of vaccination: EU countries agree on technical details

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The EU Council of Ministers continues to put pressure on the definition of the framework for the European digital vaccination certificate, which should be available from summer. On Thursday, representatives from the e-health network of the member states agreed on the technical specifications for the “digital green certificate” proposed by the EU Commission in March. The European Parliament has not yet given the go-ahead for the project and has not even defined its negotiating line on the relevant draft regulation.

The specifications agreed by the health and technology experts of the EU countries include the data structure and the coding mechanisms for the certificate, which is also intended to act as evidence of a negative test result or a surviving Covid 19 disease. The focus of the solution brought into play is a QR code. Its purpose is to ensure that all certificates, including the printed versions, can be read and checked across the EU.

The Guidelines also describe the EU interface for data exchange between the member states. In principle, the Commission has already set up this gateway for the interoperability of apps for contact tracking of people infected with corona. It should now also enable the exchange of electronic signature keys with which the authenticity of the green certificates can be checked EU-wide. According to the specification, no personal data of the certificate holder is passed over the interface, as this is not necessary for the verification.

With the guidelines, the e-health network also outlines reference implementations for software for issuing digital evidence, a reference application for their verification and a template for a so-called wallet app. With this, the citizens should be able to save the certificates on mobile devices, smartphones.

It is up to the Member States to set up these systems at national level. The Federal Ministry of Health has already stated that the digital proof should be integrated as a module in the Federal Government’s Corona Warning App (CWA). A consortium of the companies IBM, Ubirch, Govdigital and Bechtle has been awarded the contract to implement the solution, which costs around three million euros.

The reference implementations at EU level are intended to help accelerate the introduction of the certificate. According to the Commission, the Member States could build on this preparatory work. According to the government institution in Brussels, the corresponding solutions will be “open source and will be available by mid-May”. The overarching goal of the project, which is being pushed forward by the EU bodies in an urgent procedure, is to facilitate the free movement of people in the corona pandemic in good time for the summer holidays.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton assessed the unanimous decision on the technical details as an “important milestone for the development of the infrastructure of the digital green certificate at EU level”. The Brussels executive will be ready to operate the European basic components by June 1st and enable the member states to connect.

According to the Commission, the next step on the technical side is the development of the national infrastructures. After that, the national solutions for issuing, verifying and storing the certificates would have to be rolled out and the transition to the EU gateway would have to be set up. A pilot phase should start in May, it is said in Brussels. A “significant number of Member States” have already expressed an interest in participating. The work will be supported “technically and financially”.

The Council confirmed its mandate for the outstanding negotiations on the Commission’s legislative proposal in mid-April. Parliament will discuss the initiative again next week. In the first discussions in the committees, many questions from MEPs, for example about data protection and potential discrimination against non-vaccinated people, remained unanswered.


(bme)

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