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Opening borders in Europe – while continuing to contain the virus

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas participating in the dialogue among European neighbours

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas participating in the dialogue among European neighbours, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.net

11.06.2020 - Article

With a view to the upcoming holiday period, the European Foreign Ministers today continued their endeavours to coordinate safe travel in Europe, which they began three weeks ago at Foreign Minister Heiko Maas‘s Suggestion.

Close European coordination with regard to the holiday period

The COVID-19 pandemic still has the world firmly in its grip. However, the number of cases in Europe has fallen significantly and most borders have already reopened. The Federal Foreign Office will thus lift its worldwide travel warning for EU countries, Schengen area states and the UK from 15 June, and will replace it with advice for specific countries and regions.

Since this step is about to take effect, Foreign Minister Maas spoke today by videoconference with his counterparts from the 12 main European destination and transit countries for German holidaymakers, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

“Our Europe is a Europe of open borders. That is a key idea underlying our identity as Europeans, but it is not something that can be taken for granted, as we have noticed during the coronavirus crisis. The fact that international travel within Europe is now possible again is due to our successes in fighting the pandemic. Europe is today looking much healthier than we had cause to hope only a few weeks ago.” – Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

Once again, the Ministers compared plans for the upcoming holiday season: the timelines for the reopening of tourist infrastructure and the resumption of flights and other transport, minimum hygiene and containment standards and local healthcare provision for tourists, and procedures for the event of a renewed increase in the number of people infected. 

Enjoyable summer holidays – with precautions!

The discussions were conducted on the basis of the European Commission’s package on tourism and transport of 13 May, with its guidelines for safer travel in Europe. Maas and his European counterparts have already held two digital meetings, on 18 and 20 May, to get the ball rolling and to implement the Commission’s plan. Today’s meeting forms the conclusion of these talks.

The participants underscored the common goal of restoring freedom of travel for EU citizens. However, the ministers also agreed that there would still be restrictions everywhere, that it would not be possible for people to take a “normal” European holiday this year. The resumption of tourism should not lead to a renewed increase in COVID-19 infections in any of the countries concerned, be they countries of origin, transit or destination.

“We now want to reopen the borders in Europe for the people. However, we must at the same time contain the virus. Therefore it is all the more vital for each and every one of us to do our part. My words for everyone who is travelling are thus enjoy your summer holiday, but act with caution and responsibility. On holiday, as at home, we want to make it as hard as possible for the virus to spread again in Europe.” – Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

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