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05.08.2021 Europe

France's Constitutional Council to announce crucial verdict on contraversial health pass

By David Coffey with RFI
AP - Michel Euler
LISTEN AUG 5, 2021
AP - Michel Euler

"Balanced" for the president, "disproportionate" for its opponents: the bill to counter the outbreak of the epidemic of Covid-19, with the verdict on the extension of a contraversial health pass is due to be announced by France's Constitutional Council this Thursday.

Today's decision by the so-called "Wise Men" on the implementation of the government's Covid strategy could also influence the mobilisation and arguments of those who denounce the health pass as "liberticide" - the killing of freedoms. 

The text on extending the use of the health pass to bars, restaurants and travel was adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate on 25 July, after six days of heated debate and several amendments.

It was then referred to the Constitutional Council by the government and three groups of more than 60 parliamentarians each - two senators and one deputy.

If it is validated, in its entirety or partially, by the guarantors of the Constitution and fundamental freedoms, President Macron has promised its rapid implementation.

The extension of the health pass to cafés, restaurants, trade fairs, air travel and long train journeys is due to be announced later this Monday afternoon.

A rejection of the text or its main provisions would be a major setback for the government, which would then be forced to abandon it or submit a new draft to both chambers. 

Between the two sides in the debate, the Constitutional Council may simply censure certain provisions or technical modalities, which could then be removed from the text to be published.

Sensitive measures

In addition to the health pass and its control extended to cafés-restaurants, the Council must review a number of other sensitive measures: isolation of contaminated persons, compulsory vaccination of certain personnel including nurses and sanctions against non-compliant employees.

On 31 May, the Constitutional Council had already approved the principle of a health pass - proof of vaccination, negative test for Covid-19 or certificate of recovery - but this system was limited at the time to large gatherings such as festivals.

Meanwhile, the Elysée Palace has said it is "not worried" about the fate of this "balanced" text, which was voted on and "enriched" by the Assembly and the Senate, which is dominated by the right-wing opposition.

However, the leader of Socialist deputies Valérie Rabault, along with their Communist and France Insoumise colleagues filed one of the appeals and reaffirmed her objections to the health pass on television, defending instead a mandatory vaccination.

"We are asking salaried employees, waiters in restaurants, cafes, to carry out the control themselves; it is not their job. Volunteers who organise summer events are also being asked to carry out this control; it is not their job, it is not their responsibility." said Mrs Rabault.

One of the leading opponents of the health pass is former Front National number two Florian Philippot, who has claimed that "there are many constitutional principles that are trampled underfoot by this law".

But "so far on the Covid crisis the Constitutional Council has not been noted for its ability to go against the decisions of the government, to say the least. I don't have a huge hope for Thursday," he added.

According a recent poll 48% of French people disapprove of the demonstrations against the health pass, 37% support them and 15% are indifferent.

A majority (over 55%a) have declared themselves ready to present this pass if requested, and 61% (against 39%) says it is in favour of compulsory vaccination.

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