Thursday, 10 June 2021

Davor Bozinovic Talks Croatian Covid Certificate, Dodges Pressing Issue

June the 10th, 2021 - There has been a lot of conversation surrounding the controversial so-called ''covid passports'', which Croatia has already introduced. Of course, in true Croatian fashion, the Croatian covid certificate has been plagued (no pun intended) with issues from the very beginning.

The rules appear simple if you want to get your hands on a Croatian covid certificate. You either have to have been vaccinated, have proof of having recovered from the disease, or have a negative PCR test result proving you aren't hosting the novel virus. Easy, right? No. Not at all.

Many people who have previously contracted and then recovered from the disease, including myself, are unable to get their Croatian covid certificate approved. Many people had absolutely no idea they had the disease, either having only very mild symptoms or being asymptomatic, and as such never sought medical attention, testing, or proof of them being infected. The number of people who have actually been infected is more than likely far higher than official records suggest. This poses a massive problem and despite Croatia's attempts to ''avoid discrimination'' - this is precisely what this is.

As a result of numerous complaints, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic has decided to speak out about the Croatian covid certificate, claiming that all is working well, much to the frustration of very many people who are entitled to the document, but can't get it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Bozinovic announced on social media that the Croatian system for issuing the EU digital COVID certificate, also referred to in this article as the Croatian covid certificate, has confirmed its full functionality and interoperability. Many would disagree.

"More than 100,000 people managed to have their certificates approved in just seven days," wrote Bozinovic, who said the certificate was eligible for 1.7 million people, who had either been vaccinated or had contracted the disease and since recovered.

The problem of those who overcame the disease, but didn't confirm that with by taking a PCR test, however, still remains an enormous problem, writes RTL vijesti/news. This is a huge issue which it seems nobody even thought about when coming up with this idea, which honestly seems incredibly shortsighted.

By the way, the European Parliament has adopted regulations on its digital certificate which will be applied at the level of the entire bloc from the 1st of July. The certificate will be issued free of charge by the national authorities and will be available in either digital and paper form and will contain a QR code.

The document will serve as confirmation that the person has been vaccinated, has a new negative test result, or has overcome the disease. In practice, these will be three different confirmations. The EU Common Framework will ensure the interoperability and verifiability of certificates throughout the Union and prevent their forgery and fraud.

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Monday, 12 April 2021

Croatia and 12 Other EU Countries Agree on Green Tourist Passport

ZAGREB, 12 April, 2021 - Croatia and 12 other EU countries have agreed on criteria for a so-called green passport which is expected to facilitate the movement of tourists during the current time of pandemic, it was said in Vienna on Monday.

It is our goal to soon enable the use of a possibly single green passport at the EU level, Austrian Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger told the Austrian news agency APA.

The minister noted that this was a matter of survival for European tourism.

Croatia, Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain in late March agreed on seven criteria for issuing a green passport, which is expected to become a reality by early June at the latest.

The green passport contains a QR code with information on whether its holder has been vaccinated, tested or has recovered from coronavirus. It enables simple and practical application in the EU, from check-ins at airports to visits to village pubs, Köstinger said.

She stressed that one definitely wants to prevent this type of document from being treated as a way to make someone get vaccinated.

Sensitive medical information on the holder of the green passport would stay in the country of origin and would not be stored centrally at EU level.

Another goal is harmonising the application of the green passport with third countries.

The list of criteria for green passports has been submitted for control to the European Commission, which is expected to decide on their application in the coming days.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, including travel, border and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of testing centres across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section.


Thursday, 25 March 2021

Vaccination Process Slow, is EU Digital Green Certificate Idea Premature?

March the 25th, 2021 - The EU digital green certificate proposal has piqued the interest of most people, be that for good or bad reasons, but the idea which has conveniently made sure the controversial ''covid passport'' term isn't in its name still has a lot of question marks above its head.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, the EU green digital certificate won't solve all of the now highly specific problems that are set to arise around the freedom of travel and protection against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it will provide a model that will ensure the mobility of EU citizens and eliminate the current discrimination which goes against EU rules. 

The above was the main conclusion drawn from the online conference "Digital Certificates and the COVID-19 virus" which was organised by the Office of the European Parliament in Croatia back at the end of last week.

Croatian MEP Valter Flego pointed out that last year showed us the chaos that can quite easily arise and this year we all need to try our best to avoid it happening again at all costs.

"It's obvious that this Easter is also going to be a failure in terms of any sort of tourist season, and it's certain that the opening up of the country will not take place even during the pre-season. We should already be engulfed in some serious preparations for the upcoming season, everything should be ready for the pre-season, including the hiring of seasonal workers.

Tourist staff would now be at various fairs and finishing off everything for this season and starting preparations for the next one. But there's been none of that. Last week, the European Commission (EC) adopted a proposal for the introduction of the EU digital green certificate, but the fact is that due to bureaucratic and technical reasons, the move will only come to life in two to three months from now,'' Flego warned.

He explained the importance of the EU digital green certificate through one simple example - if a family of four now wants to go from Germany on holiday to Croatia and return home, then they need to set aside 600 euros for testing, which is ridiculous and enough to put anyone off bothering going anywhere at all.

Analyses show, according to Flego, that the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be 10-12 times longer and more expensive than the situation following the 2009 economic crisis was.

"If coronavirus just disappeared right now at this moment, the question is how successful our recovery of the economy, and especially tourism, would be this year. Some people in Croatia say that this year we will be at 60 percent of the turnover of 2019. Personally, I'm not convinced of that and I really don't know what such estimates are based on,'' concluded Flego.

MEP Tomislav Sokol emphasised that this model of the EU digital green certificate, although compromises must still be reached and there will still be harmonisation to come in the Council and the Parliament, is certainly a great achievement in many fields. It will end discrimination against EU citizens with regard to which member states they come from and simplify and reduce the cost of their travel.

"The EC has given member states the right to decide on the details, from how and which tests they will accept, to the fact that each country can decide which vaccine to recognise as being valid - including those which aren't registered in the EU, such as the Russian and Chinese vaccines.

However, it's already a great achievement in itself that the certificates will be bilingual and machine-readable, which means that there will be no procedures and costs for translating and establishing their authenticity,'' said Sokol.

He also pointed out that it is important that there will be no first or second class citizens and that there will be no restrictions on movement for any EU citizens. Sokol also referred to the issue that many EU member states are already looking at, or even seriously considering, using both Russian and Chinese vaccines, which haven't been approved by the EU itself.

"The EC regulation on digital certificates states that each country can decide whether and under what conditions to accept those certificates and vaccines that have not received EU approval. In this particular case, this means that Croatia can accept certificates for, for example, Hungarian residents/citizens who have been vaccinated with the Russian or Chinese vaccine,'' explained Sokol.

What about those who don’t want to be vaccinated?

Professor Iris Goldner Lang from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb pointed out that so far, we've had to get used to researching every day on how to enter and return from countries, because there were, and still are, vastly different measures which are changing almost daily. This new EU model solves all this through a "green certificate".

"This sort of digital confirmation will take some time yet because today we have a situation where relatively few citizens have been vaccinated. In some cases, people refuse to be vaccinated for whatever reason, but more importantly, there are a large number of countries where vaccine distribution is still in its infancy.

From the perception of the EU legal system, the EU digital green certificate would be unacceptable at this point as it would lead to discrimination because very few people are currently vaccinated, for one reason or another. That's why it's still going to take some time for it to come to life,'' said Goldner Lang. She added that even after vaccination is at a high level, there will be people who aren't allowed or who don't want to be vaccinated, and the way in which they can travel will have to be regulated.

The legal expert recalled that there have been certain vaccination rules and obligations in the world for many years to enter some countries - mostly African countries that insist on vaccination against, for example, yellow fever and some other infectious diseases.

For more on travel, borders rules, testing centres and other information on coronavirus specific to Croatia, bookmark this page.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Split IT Company Tech Resources Offers EU Covid Passport Solution

March 25, 2021 - Split IT experts from Tech Resources offer a travel solution that could facilitate drafting the new digital green certificate and protect citizens' privacy.

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that Europe is preparing to introduce digital green certificates, the so-called 'Covid-passport,' and an initiative is coming from Split that could facilitate drafting this document and protect the privacy of citizens.

As Secretary of State for Europe Andreja Metelko-Zgombić said at an informal video conference of European ministers on Tuesday, Croatia welcomes the Commission's proposal to introduce digital green certificates aimed at facilitating free and secure movement at the EU level.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs website stated in the information about the meeting that the adoption of the legislative proposal and the completion of technical preparations following the plan are expected by June so that the certificates can be applied as soon as possible. A digital green certificate should be evidence that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from it, or has a negative test result.

While preparations for the production of Covid passports are underway, the Split IT company Tech Resources, founded in 2016 by Josip Majić, a returnee from America, already has an almost conceptual solution feasible in practice, based on blockchain technology and smart contracts.

When you hear the word blockchain, you may first think of cryptocurrencies, but the possibilities of applying these technologies are much wider.

This Split company currently has 20 employees who work mainly for foreign clients, i.e., for export. Among the most important projects that speak about the team's expertise is the fiscalization of bills for Montenegro, which has been implemented since the beginning of 2021, and the toll collection system in Great Britain. By the way, this company's focus is on innovation and application of new digital technologies in real current problems of both the private and public sectors.

"Covid has affected our business, both directly and indirectly, so we took the problem of Covid passports as a project task to check whether it is possible to create such a document with complete data security, without compromising anyone's sovereignty and without the possibility of misuse, while maintaining full functionality and fulfilling the purpose of such a document. We worked on it for two months and managed to make a conceptual solution that can be implemented in practice," says Leo Žanetić, project manager.

He notes that this solution requires the association of Croatian IT experts to be feasible in practice. In this way, Croatia will save significant amounts of money, and at the same time, will protect the personal data of its citizens because the solution they devised completely protects privacy.

"We must protect our interests, citizens, and the state, as much as the situation allows us. We in the company are ready to gather a consortium of experts for free, communicate the solution, and fully transparently manage the project," says Žanetić.

It would work following the guidelines published by the European Commission.

"Every EU citizen would receive a specially created digital document (similar to the online vaccination appointment system) containing their personal data and information on the type, time, and location of vaccination. When a citizen is vaccinated, the state issues them a smart passport in the form of a card with a printed code on it. When scanning the code, information is obtained from a digital document," explains Žanetić and cites several examples.

You travel, for example, from Croatia to Italy to visit relatives you haven't seen for a long time because of the lockdown. The police officer will scan the code from your smart passport at the border crossing and receive a confirmation that you - Mate Matić under vaccination ID number 123456789 - was vaccinated 2 days and 18 hours ago.

After entering Italy, you will jump to buy gifts at the mall. At the mall entrance, the security guard will scan the code from your smart passport and receive confirmation that the holder of that card has been vaccinated. He does not need to know your name or ID number or when or where you were vaccinated.

After a few days in Italy, you had a small accident and will be admitted to a local hospital with a swollen leg. The doctor who receives you will scan the code from your smart passport and receive a confirmation that you - Mate Matić, health insured in the Republic of Croatia under number 65432, have been vaccinated with the Pfizer Mo vaccine. C113 2 days and 18 hours ago in Split, with the remark that you are allergic to penicillin.

As the Split IT experts point out, all this can be done with the help of blockchain technology, building a distributed application that uses a smart contract as back-end functionality. Thus, they would make their own blockchain with their own smart contract in which all the scenarios that, for example, Mate Matić had when visiting relatives in Italy were defined.

"This means that state information centers, i.e., data centers where e-citizen systems, e-referrals, e-cadastre, etc., work, would become the so-called "Miners" of that blockchain. By reaching a mathematical consensus, they would verify each other's credibility on the items from the smart contract. No one on that network could read any data without first the whole network approving and verifying it. All data is in blocks arranged in a chain and merged by reaching the specified consensus, hence the name blockchain. This achieves complete decentralization of the database as well as its management. No one can decide anything on their own without the approval of other miners," explains Žanetić.

He emphasizes that this means that a citizen can only endanger their data and no one else's. Also, the possibility of direct cyberattacks on weak points is eliminated because there are none.

"There can be no error on the server so that the system "crashes" because the system is not located on any server but is online and updated on the systems of all miners. If one miner falls, the only thing that can happen is a slight and short-term slowdown of the system until a new miner is activated and takes over the job of the one who fell," says Leo Žanetić.

Now it is the turn of the Croatian Government and competent institutions to could consider this initiative. Domestic knowledge and domestic resources are available to them.

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