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Europe's plans for restarting cross-border tourism and travel explained
18 May 2020 @ 18:39

TRAVELLING and tourism within the European Union may start to reopen soon – or, at least, the European Commission is in favour of beginning to relax international movement within the bloc, and has issued a series of recommendations to member States.

The Commission says that, in general terms, it would like to start replacing the total travel ban in force at the moment with 'more focused measures', such as identifying which parts of Europe are 'starting to become safe', using a three-stage recovery system – much like that in use in Spain at present – and by reducing density in transport, such as requiring fewer passengers on airlines.

“At the moment, the epidemiological situation means it would be ill-advised to lift travel restrictions altogether, but this should be done in 'phases' like those put into operation in various countries,” the Commission says.

It proposes a bloc-wide 'scaling down' of the lockdown in three stages – 'Phases' 0, 1 and 2.

Spain's own 'unlocking' is in four phases – 0, 1, 2 and 3 – with, from Monday, all the country except the Greater Madrid region, the Barcelona metropolitan area and around half the health departments in Castilla y León on 'Phase 1', the former zones on 'Phase 0' and the islands of Formentera (Balearics) and El Hierro, La Gomera and La Graciosa (Canaries) on 'Phase 2'.

 

Europe in 'Phases'

The European Commission considers the bloc to be in 'Phase 0' right now – with borders between member States still shut, but the countries in question starting to apply mechanisms to gradually open up restrictions on movement.

'Phase 1' in Europe will see a 'partial' lifting of border controls and restrictions, and if this cannot be across the board and immediate, an easing off could start between 'regions, areas or member States' whose 'situation and evolution' in terms of virus control are similar.

An example could be travel permitted between northern Spain and southern France, but not between southern Spain and France, nor between southern and northern France – or perhaps between Spain and the Scandinavian countries but not between Spain and Italy; or maybe anywhere within eastern Europe but not western Europe.

As yet, the respective situations in each member State, or parts thereof, are not clear enough to be able to work out a possible strategy, but it is expected this will be on the cards soon.

Where travel between two areas or countries whose contagion situation is different – one being farther ahead and nearer recovery than another – 'extra steps' will be taken when crossing borders, including 'additional vigilance and control'.

“We need to take into account the domestic situation – that is, whether restriction on movement is now being relaxed within a country a person is travelling from or to – as our starting point,” the Commission explains.

Authorisation by the different member nations to travel to given areas must be in an 'informed and coordinated manner', based on 'three criteria' and cannot be 'discriminatory', the Commission warns – meaning permission to travel must be for all territories which comply with the criteria and for all citizens, with no 'cherry-picking' between them.

As an example, if Spain, Portugal and France were all in similar situations concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, Spain could not allow its residents to travel to Portugal but not France, and could not permit travel to 'Spanish nationals only'.

Also, says the Commission, no country will be permitted to open borders with neighbouring countries but not with anywhere else in the EU – the criteria to follow will be based upon the 'epidemiological situation' in given member States, not the distance between them. So, for example, if Portugal, France and Germany were in a similar position to Spain, then Spain would not be allowed to permit travel to Portugal and France but not Germany.

'Phase 1' for Europe would also relax restrictions on travel for people with family members in another member State, and also for work reasons – as an example, in some central and eastern countries such as Austria, Hungary, Czechia, south-eastern Germany and Slovakia, many workers commute 'abroad' for their jobs; residents in relatively small, land-locked nations surrounded by other countries say they have very little European immigration, because their 'foreign' workforce simply drives across the border twice a day.

At present, most of these people will have been prevented from going to work for some weeks, purely because doing so meant leaving the country every morning.

'Phase 1' in Europe would mean 'prioritising' cross-border movements in 'key areas of the economy', says the Commission – which may well include international tourism, in the case of Spain and other Mediterranean nations where the holiday industry forms a major chunk of their income.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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