what we learn from the example of Israel

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The European Commission said on Monday that it was working on a green passport allowing more free travel within the EU. The example of Israel, a benchmark in this area, reveals the strengths and weaknesses of these systems.

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The European Commission said on Monday that it was working on a green passport allowing more free travel within the EU.  The example of Israel, a benchmark in this area, reveals the strengths and weaknesses of these systems.

© Reuters

The European Commission said on Monday that it was working on a green passport allowing more free travel within the EU. The example of Israel, a benchmark in this area, reveals the strengths and weaknesses of these systems.


The European Commission will present on March 17 a digital “green passport” project which will allow its holders to prove that they have been vaccinated or have recently undergone a negative test. Monday, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, indicated that this innovation should “gradually allow Europeans to move safely within the EU or outside, for work or tourism”. After its presentation, the proposal will be submitted to the summit of the Twenty-Seven, on March 25.

In Israel, two passports to find a normal life

On this subject, Israel is currently a benchmark, in the wake of a flash vaccination campaign. The country has already administered more than 8 million doses: more than 50% of the inhabitants have received a first injection and 37% the second. So the country has put in place two tools to support the gradual lifting of restrictions:

  • A red or green “pass”. The first is for people who have not yet been vaccinated or immunized with a recent infection, while the second is for people who check one of its two characteristics. Since February 21, shopping centers, libraries, museums, cafes and some places of worship are open to everyone. But sports halls, sporting and cultural events as well as restaurants are only open to holders of the green “pass”.
  • A green passport. On the same model as the “pass”, it allows people who have received the two doses of the vaccine to travel and then return to Israel without any restrictions, but still test negative for Covid-19. At the end of January, the government suspended international flights to and from Israel, which are scheduled to resume on March 6.

In Europe, a passport and three pieces of information

Ursula von der Leyen’s proposal takes up the idea of ​​the Israeli passport. It would include “proof that the person has been vaccinated”, “test results for those who have not yet been able to get vaccinated” and even an indication that the person has been immunized after an infection.

But the example of Israel highlights the many challenges to be met in order to set up such a system. Speeding up the vaccination campaign is only the first of them. On this point, Europe is lagging behind: only 33 million doses have been administered within the Member States, less than half of the American total (74 million), for example, while the United States has fewer inhabitants.

Among the countries that are pressing for the adoption of a green passport, Greece is in the front line. The country hopes to save its summer season, but no one can say what level of vaccination coverage will be reached in Europe during this period. As a result, the European green passport could rely more, in the coming months at least, on a negative test result. The European Commission has announced that it has purchased “more than 20 million rapid antigenic tests”, distributed as of next week. It also launched a call for tenders for some 550 million rapid tests to be delivered in the “coming months” and encouraged member states to order.

Pitfalls to avoid in Europe

On the other hand, the Israeli experience gave rise to other challenges and concerns.

  • The first is that of the confidentiality data and therefore the preservation of medical confidentiality.
  • A passport of this type also asks questions of security. According to the daily Haaretz, cybersecurity firm Check Point pointed to flaws in the Israeli app’s certificate. It would thus be easy to falsify your data in order to obtain a valid QR code. According to Israeli media, some are already selling on the Internet.
  • These passports can also generate inequality between the populations and the Member States depending on the progress of the vaccination campaigns. In addition, vaccination is not compulsory but such a project could be interpreted as a backdoor way to generalize it. In December, in France, a bill had provoked an outcry, the opposition accusing the government of having this objective.

Along with Germany, France is also one of the most cautious European countries in recent months on the subject of the vaccine passport. “Everyone does not yet have access to the vaccine, and we do not know if it prevents transmission”, indicated in January the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, judging the possible debate “in a few months”.

The creation of a vaccination passport would, in any case, be nothing new. Many countries already require proof of vaccine (for example against yellow fever) to be presented by all arrivals. As such, many French people already have an international vaccination certificate to travel, and not only abroad. Guyana indeed asks all tourists (even French therefore) to be immunized against yellow fever.

In France, Emmanuel Macron must also hold a meeting this week with members of the government to prepare the establishment of a “health pass”, which will not be a “vaccine passport”, with a view to the reopening of cultural places and restaurants, AFP said. A sign that the lines are moving on this subject?

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