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Europeans Are Divided Over The Issue Of Vaccine Passports

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Despite a shaky vaccine rollout, Europe is eager to reopen to travelers this summer. The European Commission is outlining plans for something it calls a Digital Green Certificate. It's a document that they say will make it easier for EU residents to travel. But as Rebecca Rosman found out, the idea is not popular with everyone.

REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Europeans are divided on the question of vaccine passports. Tourist-dependent Mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain and Croatia love the idea. But their northern neighbors, including Belgium, Germany and France, are a bit more wary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URSULA VON DER LEYEN: Firstly, what is the function of this certificate?

ROSMAN: Maybe that's why the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was careful not to use the words vaccine and passport when she unveiled her proposal for a Digital Green Certificate.

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VON DER LEYEN: It shows whether the person has either been vaccinated or a recent negative test or has recovered from COVID and thus antibodies.

ROSMAN: The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was amongst the first to push the idea of a European-wide vaccine passport back in January. After all, tourism accounts for a surprising 20% of his country's GDP. Harris Poridis (ph) says revenue is down 95% at his hotel and restaurant near Thessaloniki. He admits he has privacy concerns about his health data being collected for these digital certificates.

HARRIS PORIDIS: However, now, as a business owner, I believe that it would be better to have this passport for the people, that they can travel without fear.

ROSMAN: EU leaders will debate the commission's proposal later this month. But international travel is only part of a much larger discussion about vaccine passports. Some countries, like Israel, have already introduced similar certificates to let people who have been vaccinated into bars, restaurants and shops. But that's going too far, says Fred Monnier (ph), who runs a small cafe in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.

FRED MONNIER: For travel, for business, no worries. It will reopen the markets. And you always have to show a passport when you travel. But when you buy a baguette, you know, it's something. It's privacy

ROSMAN: A recent government survey showed only 20% of French people said they fully supported the idea of vaccine passports. Ella Jakubowska of the Brussels-based nonprofit European Digital Rights says the passports could encourage discrimination.

ELLA JAKUBOWSKA: There are some people who can never be vaccinated, immunocompromised people, people with certain allergies. And the idea that we would permanently shut those people out of our society is really not an acceptable thought.

ROSMAN: Then there are those who are in favor of vaccine passports but worry they won't be able to benefit from them. Cristina Di Meco (ph) lives in Bologna, Italy, where she works for a student travel agency.

CRISTINA DI MECO: The only thing that worries me, that I will be left behind because, clearly, at the moment, in Italy, we are not vaccinating enough.

ROSMAN: And that's why Di Meco hopes Italy and other European countries will concentrate on speeding up their vaccination campaigns before worrying about digital travel certificates.

For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Rosman in Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF L'INDECIS' "STAYING THERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.