Still no understanding between EU tourism ministers on the guidelines proposed by the Commission last week even though they agree on the need for a “coordinated” exit from confinement and the opening of borders to save the season. “Further discussions are needed,” explained Gari Cappelli, Croatia’s tourism minister, who has the rotating presidency of the EU, at a press conference after the conference call with his European colleagues. He also announced, however, that Croatia is already negotiating bilateral agreements with other countries. Cappelli explained that “if there is the possibility of bilateral agreements, in particular between countries where the epidemiological situation is similar or equal, we must do it to accelerate the recovery of the sector”. So “if the situation is identical or very similar, things can be agreed bilaterally on border crossings by car, sea or air”.
A statement that has struck more than a few observers. So much so that in the evening the Croatian presidency adjusted the shooting with a tweet: «The Minister of Tourism Cappelli and his colleagues supported a coordinated approach at EU level, based on a regular exchange of information and the implementation of the main guidelines in view of the revitalization of tourism and related sectors ». In a note, the Commission recalled that “coordination” between Member States is the key word for “successfully easing the restrictions currently in force” following the coronavirus pandemic, “and that is why we recommend that Member States consult and always inquire before lifting travel restrictions. ‘ In short, for now we are going in a sparse order on the reopening of borders, but the Commission’s invitation to coordinated action remains (the borders are the exclusive competence of the Member States).
Greece, Spain and Austria
Greece, one of the countries least affected by the coronavirus, has made it known that the tourist season will start again with the reopening of “seasonal” hotels from 15 June, while international flights will return from 1 July. Spain will reopen flights and ferries from Italy but anyone will still be subject to the 14-day quarantine as long as the state of emergency remains in force, probably until mid-June. Madrid thus responds to that call for reciprocity invoked by Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, when he announced that from June 3 Italian borders would be open to all citizens of the Schengen area. Austria is closed for Italians, except for work and freight traffic. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called “irresponsible, in the light of epidemiological data”, the possible reopening of the borders with Italy.
The next three weeks will be crucial. June 15 is referred to by many countries as the watershed date. Germany and France will then dissolve their reservations: they would like to eliminate the current travel restrictions and replace them “with specific warnings for certain countries”, as well as Switzerland. However, some borders are already open between neighboring countries. The first were the three Baltics: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have restored the free movement of people within them. And Austria has already reopened the borders with Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Sector in crisis
Ministers also discussed how to relaunch the sector which is worth 10% of European GDP, equal to around 1,400 billion euros. For the Minister of Culture and Tourism Dario Franceschini “an ambitious European action plan is needed in support of the tourism sector” because “despite the great commitment and the considerable funds that the various countries are dedicating to the sector, and the DL that Italy approved only a few days ago, the negative impact is such that no country can think of doing it alone ». For Italy it is necessary “to include the entire tourism supply chain preferentially in all Community recovery and investment programs”. Franceschini also updated EU ministers on the heavy investments that tourism companies are putting in place in Italy for the sanitation and safety of structures and on the Italian epidemiological monitoring system “which guarantees maximum transparency and simplicity in accessing data”.