Sweden ‘in violation’ of EU law for failing to issue Covid passes to thousands of foreign residents

Sweden 'in violation' of EU law for failing to issue Covid passes to thousands of foreign residents
The Swedish eHealth Agency is working on making the Covid vaccine pass available to everyone. Photo: Johan Jeppsson/TT
Sweden's failure to make Covid vaccine passes available to those without personal ID numbers contravenes EU laws, an internal market expert group has told The Local.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate was agreed on by member states earlier this year, and is meant to facilitate travel within the union during the pandemic. But as The Local has reported in a series of articles, thousands of people in Sweden are currently unable to get the certificate.

Charlotte von Mentzer, a legal adviser at Solvit – an organisation that helps solve problems that EU citizens or businesses are experiencing with the public administrations of EU member states – said that Sweden was not alone in failing to offer the Covid certificate (also sometimes known as the vaccine pass, health pass or green pass) to everyone who is legally entitled to one.

“Clearly a few countries have had problems living up to the regulation, it’s not just Sweden as far as we know,” she told The Local. “Everyone is probably doing their best, including our authorities, but you should be able to follow a regulation as soon as it comes into force.”

The EU Digital Covid Certificate scheme came into force on July 1st across the EU, including Sweden.

Everyone who lives in Sweden is eligible for the Covid vaccine (although some readers have told us that they experienced problems in that area, too), but you still need a Swedish social security number, personnummer, to order the official Covid vaccine pass.

If you don’t have one, you may have to pay for a negative test to be able to travel freely. This despite the fact that according to EU rules, vaccinated people have the right to get the certificate from the member state that administered their vaccine.

“We believe that because this makes it harder for a group of people, who perhaps even live in Sweden and have the right to do so and are only affected because they don’t have a personnummer, it is a problem that is in violation of freedom of movement,” said von Mentzer.

A spokesperson for the eHealth Agency – the agency in charge of issuing the vaccine passes in Sweden – confirmed to The Local that it was still “investigating the possibilities for a solution” for everyone, including people without a personnummer.

“We have also been told that they are looking into the possibility of making this happen,” said von Mentzer. “But you could go as far as to say that it is an obligation, not just a possibility. Like any other country, Sweden should live up to the rules stated in the regulation.”

She said Solvit had not yet launched a formal investigation into the issue, but were looking into reports from people who are affected.

“People who have the right to get vaccinated in Sweden also have the right to get this certificate, and that goes for everyone.”

What do the EU rules say?

The EU regulation 2021/953 outlines the framework of the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Article 5.1 states: “Each Member State shall, automatically or upon request by the persons concerned, issue the vaccination certificates referred to in point (a) of Article 3(1) to persons to whom a COVID-19 vaccine has been administered. Those persons shall be informed of their right to a vaccination certificate.”

What’s the problem in Sweden?

Including people without a personnummer turned out to be more technically complex than expected, the eHealth Agency told The Local in July. Some people without a personnummer got their vaccination registered to their coordination number (a temporary code) and some to a reserve number (another temporary code), and including them in the database used to administer the Covid passes proved difficult.

The agency predicts it will have a solution in place for coordination numbers by September at the earliest, but the reserve numbers are more complex, and there is not yet a time frame for adding them to the pass. The Local explained the issue in more depth in this article.

Tell us: Have you been able to access Sweden’s Covid vaccine pass?

The personnummer is often key to accessing a lot of Swedish services, everything from opening a bank account to joining a gym. You have to be able to prove that you intend to stay in Sweden for more than a year to receive one, which excludes a lot of people who are here legally (including EU job-seekers and many exchange and master’s students), and the waiting time for one may be up to 18 weeks.

What should I do if I’m in this situation?

Von Mentzer recommends reporting your case to Solvit. The service is provided by each EU country (in Sweden it is part of the National Board of Trade) and is designed to help people or businesses whose EU rights are breached by public authorities. Regardless of whether your particular problem lies with Swedish or other EU authorities, she said Solvit can help investigate possible solutions and mediate.

Another option is to approach the region that administered your vaccine, and ask them to give you a slip of paper that includes the same information as the Covid pass, although it doesn’t offer the same guarantee of free travel as the latter does. If you have applied for a personnummer, you should be able to transfer your information and receive the Covid pass as soon as you receive the personnummer.

Here’s more information about the EU Digital Covid Certificate scheme.

If you have a story to share with The Local, you are always welcome to email our editorial team at [email protected]. We may not be able to help, and we may not be able to reply to every email we receive, but we read all emails and your feedback helps inform our reporting.

What about other EU countries?

Sweden is not the only member state where certain categories of foreigners have struggled to get the Covid pass. The Local’s sister site in France reports that it has mainly been working smoothly in France, but Austria, Spain and Italy all report various bureaucratic problems.


Member comments

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  1. Got my vaccinations with a reserve number, hence no way of getting the pass in the foreseeable future. When I went to my home country Germany, I just went to a pharmacy, showed them proof I had been vaccinated in Sweden, and they printed out the QR code within 3 minutes and now I have the EU wide certificate on my phone. It took Germany 3 MINUTES to do this for someone who had been vaccinated in a different country. WTF SWEDEN?!?!

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