The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, laid out its advice for lifting ID checks on borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, in a May 13, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, laid out its advice for lifting ID checks on borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, in a May 13, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

EU unveils plans to save vacations and avoid a lost summer

People cautiously venturing out of confinement

BRUSSELS — The European Union unveiled Wednesday its plan to help citizens across the 27 nations salvage their summer vacations after months of tough coronavirus confinement and to hopefully resurrect Europe’s badly battered tourism industry.

Around 150,000 people have died across Europe and Britain since the virus surfaced in northern Italy in February, but with the spread of the disease tapering off, people in many countries are cautiously venturing out of confinement to return to work and some schools are reopening.

A question on the minds of people, tour operators and the thousands of small businesses that depend on the tourism industry is whether this year’s warmest months will turn into a lost summer, with most Europeans reduced to a home-style “staycation.”

“This is not going to be a normal summer, not for any of us. But when we all work together, and we all do our part … then we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home or a complete lost summer for the European tourist industry,” Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

In a series of guidelines, the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, laid out its advice for lifting ID checks on hastily closed borders, helping to get airlines, ferries and buses running while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, and preparing health measures for hotels to reassure clients.

But a big question remains: will the countries of the world’s biggest trading bloc follow the advice? Faced with a disease about which much is still unknown, national capitals have tended to go it alone, and they – not the EU Commission – have the final say over health and security matters.

The commission’s over-arching advice is that EU countries with similar rates of coronavirus infections and comparably strong health care systems should begin lifting border measures between each other. Tourists from outside Europe cannot enter until at least June 15.

The move comes amid deep concern that Europe’s ID-check free travel zone – the 26-country space known as the Schengen Area – is being strangled by controls, further harming virus-ravaged economies by limiting the movement of goods, services and people that are essential to business.

Austria and Germany said Wednesday they plan to start loosening border controls this weekend after two months of restrictions. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said all border crossing points with France, Switzerland and Austria will be opened — compared with a select few currently. Border guards will no longer check all travellers, as they have been since March 16.

In a tweet, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced a shift from Friday to “random checks at the German-Austrian border and on June 15 the border should be opened again.” He said his government is looking to do the same “with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and neighbouring countries in Eastern Europe, provided the infection numbers allow it.”

Even with border restrictions easing, social distancing rules would apply, and the EU Commission is recommending that robust disease monitoring measures are put in place – including good testing capacity and contact tracing – so that people have the confidence to return to hotels and camping sites abroad.

With airlines and travel operators buckling under a liquidity crisis after governments ordered the cancellation and grounding of many flights and limits on public life, the commission is hoping for a greater use of air travel vouchers, which would be more flexible than tickets and could limit the need for refunds. That would save time for consumers and spare airlines and operators the cost of refunds in some cases.

Vouchers would be protected against the company going bankrupt, and valid for at least a year, with trips remaining refundable if the vouchers are not redeemed. The vouchers would also be transferable to another traveller, under the guidelines.

Tourism-reliant Greece, which handled the coronavirus better than most of its partners but whose economy was already severely weakened by its debt crisis, has thrown its weight behind the commission plan, and is calling for the resumption of travel between EU countries by June 15. It says prospective travellers should be tested three days before departure.

A government document seen by The Associated Press says that while containing the pandemic remains key, “health measures should be implemented in a way that minimize unnecessary impact on cross-border travel.” It calls for a co-ordinated response, backed by EU funding, that would allow resumption of air, road, train and sea travel simultaneously.

By The Associated Press

CoronavirusEuropean Union

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read