express– The European Commission is tipped to present a proposal this month that would introduce EU-wide coronavirus vaccination passports. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the news today, revealing that the outfit would “submit a legislative proposal”. The EU was thought to be against the idea of digitalised passports that might open-up free movement across the continent.
Last week, the bloc was urged to consider them in order to invigorate a flailing tourism industry.
France and Germany, who are largely regarded as spearheading the EU, said any document could be premature.
This is because data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing on COVID-19 is incomplete.
The issue of fairness has also been raised: vaccine passports would allow the older populations of countries to travel, while younger, healthy people wait at the bottom of the list.
A whole swathe of people would therefore face discriminatory restrictions on their lives still.
Yet, Ms von der Leyen’s announcement will strike hopes that movement could return across Europe this year.
It will be just one in a string of things that the EU will paint as its move to modernisation in a post-COVID-19 and post-Brexit world.
Yanis Vaorufakis, Greece’s former finance minister, recently spoke about the policies the bloc is now chasing post-Brexit, many of which it says it can do as a result of not being tied to the UK.
Talking at a virtual event held by the Economic Research Council in January, Mr Varoufakis looked to dispel the idea that the EU might prosper because of Britain’s departure.
Rather, he said that it is now time to question how the EU might fare without the UK.
Noting the areas that the EU is now pushing towards, he said: “If you talk to the great and the good in Brussels, as well as in the European capitals, and you ask them the question, ‘So, what has Brexit done for the EU?’
“In a version of the original sour grapes of Aesop, it’s about the fox pretending not to want the grapes simply because she cannot reach the grapes.
“In that original idea of Aesop’s, the dominant response in Brussels today and European capitals, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Rome, is that, ‘Well, good riddance to the Brits, now that Brexit has happened we’re free from the shackles of the problematic partner in London, and our response to Brexit has been right and proper’.
“They will cite three important moves that the EU has made, facilitated and may be occasioned by Brexit.
“They will say that the threat of Brexit or the threat of the repercussions of Brexit has caused Angela Merkel to shift her position substantially, to remove Germany from the Frugal Four and to embrace a Hamiltonian moment – the second point, that this is the acceptance of the notion of common debt binding the eurozone.
“They will also point to recent developments on the front of attempting to turn the euro into a competitor of the dollar.
“These three things: Germany out of the frugal group, accepting common debt, the creation of a recovery fund which is a major move towards integration, and finally the ambition that was caused early by Brexit but also, by the way, in which Donald Trump used the agreement with Iran on nuclear disarmament against the Europeans.
“Let’s assess that claim, that the EU has used Brexit as an opportunity to move towards integration, to make the steps that it should’ve made towards greater integration.
“It’s a hypothesis that I wish to scrutinise and it is a hypothesis which, let me warn you from the outset, I shall dismiss.”
For an hour and a half, Mr Varoufakis went on to pick apart the EU’s claims that he had set out.
The EU’s recovery fund gained much attention when it was agreed on in 2020.
It was finally given the green-light earlier this year, meaning for the first time in the bloc’s history, member states shared a collective debt.
This was, however, despite the EU’s predecessors, the European Economic Community (EEC), being founded on the rule that no country should share debt.
For German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Macron, both of whom spearheaded the recovery fund plans, it marks a move towards their goal of closer economic integration across the bloc.
Yet, many have noted that the closer integration might well translate to a harder to leave EU.
They fear that their countries could be left with near-irreparable debt, similar to Greece’s situation where it is scheduled to repay its last loan to the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2040.
Sergio Montanaro, a spokesman for Italy’s ‘Italexit’ party, told Express.co.uk that the recovery package “binds countries to the EU”.
Mr Varoufakis is experienced in this sort of debt.
His native Greece, in 2008, was forced to borrow large amounts of money from the ECB and IMF in order not to default.
Both loans and grants were given, some of which Greece will continue to pay back until 2040.
A subject of the loans by the EU was that Greece implemented severe austerity measures.
The results of this have been devastating, with youth unemployment having soared.
Currently, 40 percent of those aged 15-24 are unemployed – the average for the same age group across the entire continent is just 14 percent.
Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, said the faulty nature in which the EU operates regarding loans and grants could in future lead to further “discontent” across the continent.
The problem, he told Express.co.uk, was that for countries like Greece, “there’s no obvious way out”.