Although the COVID-19 pandemic still has the world in its grip, the number of cases in Europe is falling and the first borders have re-opened. Many are wondering when people in the EU can travel again and what tourism will be like this summer.
Tourism in the EU: Possible but with some restrictions
After the Foreign Minister spoke on Monday with his counterparts in the major travel destinations for Germans, today close coordination with neighbouring countries Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland was on the agenda.
Even this year, we want to make a summer holiday in Europe possible – but under responsible conditions. For that it must be predictable and, above all, safe. We need certainty on two fronts. Firstly, we need to be sure that our citizens will be able to return to Germany without restrictions. Secondly, we need to be sure that a summer tourist season will not come at the high price of a second wave of infections.
In order to achieve this, all states agreed today on health and hygiene standards for tourist destinations and will be working closely to draw up criteria that are as uniform as possible in order gradually to re-open borders in Europe and lift quarantine regulations.
The consultations were based on the European Commission’s tourism package. Maas and his colleagues examined how they could implement the package and started to more precisely define the steps towards the long awaited open borders. The aim is to replace the Federal Foreign Office’s global travel warning with differentiated travel advisories from 15 June onwards. The talks today and on Monday have brought the EU a good bit closer to that goal. The countries intend to continue this coordination in the coming days and weeks. However, it is also clear that there will be restrictions everywhere and that a “normal” holiday will not be possible in Europe this year.
Striking a balance between close coordination and flexibility depending on the rate of infection
Many countries in Europe very much depend on summer tourism – especially on German tourists. These countries therefore want to see quick solutions. Foreign Minister Maas stated:
We don’t want to see European destinations competing for tourists. Rather, we want a coordinated and transparent process which will be easy to comprehend and acceptable to everyone in Europe.
As world champion in travelling, Germany has a special responsibility here. At the same time, the opening up of Europe will largely hinge on the rate of infection, which sometimes varies considerably both nationally and regionally. Differentiations are therefore likely. We have to agree on a common set of rules rather than suddenly resuming complete freedom of travel.
Link to the full press statement by Heiko Maas