The European Union will start its “EU Digital Covid Certificate” program on July 1, after the tool to streamline information about a traveler’s COVID-19 status was approved by the EU Parliament on June 9. China-made vaccines are not recognized by the program, as is the case with the Russia-made vaccines. The Chinese regime’s embassy in France responded by saying that it would retaliate with reciprocal treatment of French travelers in China.
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in front of a European Union (EU) flag in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)
All EU member countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, are included in the scheme that will streamline information about the COVID-19 health status of travelers like COVID-19 test results, recovery status, or vaccination status, to help them move more efficiently around EU countries, which all still have different entry requirements. The digital certificates contain a QR code and are issued by individual EU countries. All EU countries are required to recognize the certificates issued by other EU countries.
Chinese-made vaccines are not included in the program as they have not been approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, some EU member states, such as Greece, Cyprus, Hungary and Serbia, have individually accepted Chinese vaccines.
In line with the EU’s decision, France implemented new entry regulations for COVID-19 on June 9. People who have been vaccinated now won’t need to provide “compelling reasons” to enter France, nor need to be quarantined. The Pfizer, Modena, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been approved for use by France. Vaccines made by China-based companies have not been approved. In addition, France divides the world into three epidemic zones: green, orange, and red. China is listed as an orange area.
People queue to check-in at the Biarritz airport, southwestern France, on Aug. 14, 2020. (Bob Edme/AP Photo)
Under the regulations, Chinese nationals will need to provide “compelling reasons” to enter the country and then quarantine themselves for seven days after arriving in France if granted entry.
The official website of the Chinese Embassy in France issued an announcement on June 14 to remind Chinese citizens of the new French regulations. A staff member in the Chinese Embassy in France told Radio Free Asia that Beijing will implement “reciprocal sanctions,” that is, when French people enter China, China will not recognize their vaccination with non-Chinese vaccines.
Mainland Chinese media reported the regime’s retaliation measures against France on June 15, adding that travelers from France are required to be quarantined upon arrival for 28 days, which is much longer than what France requires for Chinese nationals. The reports claimed that the China-made vaccines were not being recognized by France and EU for political reasons, saying that they had already been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). The reports said the regime’s retaliation would be “teaching France a lesson.”
France-based current affairs commentator Wang Longmeng told RFA that he believes that China’s retaliation was intended to stir up nationalist sentiments among the Chinese. He pointed out that, as one of the representatives of the regime’s “wolf diplomacy,” the Chinese ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, has frequently criticized Western countries for their calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. The criticism was also posted on the Chinese Embassy’s official website. The Chinese Embassy in France has also been continually posting comments on social media in an attempt to sway public opinion against the West.
“The reciprocal treatment claimed by China is also ridiculous. How will the Chinese citizens who live in France and have received Western vaccinations feel about it? Are they going to be prohibited from returning to China?”
Wang added he believes that as a major EU country, France is being responsible to its citizens by not approving the Chinese vaccines given the reports of low efficacy and a lack of transparency surrounding the data used in clinical trials. It is also a necessary means to contain China, as the regime is pushing its vaccine diplomacy and seeking global dominance by taking the opportunity of the pandemic, Wang said.
Erkin Azat, a Kazakh journalist living in France, praised the EU’s decision not to approve Chinese vaccines. However, he told RFA he is worried that the EU’s collective policies will eventually be breached by China’s vaccine diplomacy as a few EU countries who participated in the regime’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and are receiving large loans from China, have approved the Chinese vaccines.