No common opening of borders

Time is running out on hopes of a coordinated restart to travel across Europe this summer, with a harmonised re-opening of borders “not possible”, according to a senior European Commission official.

Matthew Baldwin, EC deputy director-general for mobility and transport (DG-MOVE), said: “It’s important we do as much as we possibly can together, [but] we recognise not everyone is going to be able to do everything at the same time. It’s just not possible.”

But Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, told Baldwin: “We need a harmonised approach.”

EU Home Affairs commissioner Yiva Johansson revealed member states would discuss easing border controls on Friday (June 5).

Speaking in a Euronews online debate, Santander said: “We are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Many members of the EU are putting in place measures to re-open borders.

“We are confronted not just with a health crisis but a crisis of confusion. People don’t know where they can go.”

Santander insisted: “This is a crisis of confidence and of trust. Tourism is based on predictable facts. You want to go to a place and feel safe and have fun. If these are not granted, you won’t go on holiday.

“Confidence has to be built first in the fact of travelling. If the summer season is not going to happen we are going to have a lot of problems.”

Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism Rita Marques agreed, saying: “We are running out of time. A co-ordinated approach is not happening and member states are negotiating among themselves.”

Baldwin said: “The EC published a package of documents on May 13 on how to reopen borders and restore travel and tourism. It does not necessarily all need to be harmonised.

“We said we want to see internal borders lifted as soon as possible. There will still be health controls, we recognise that. We would like to see it happen in a coordinated way.”

He added: “A lot of this is in the competence of member states. We’re trying to give a toolbox to coordinate a way out.”

Baldwin reported no date has been set for lifting travel restrictions at the EU’s external borders.

He said: “We’re discussing the external border and will be coming forward with ideas on how we can lift the external border, but I can’t put a date on it.

“If we open the external border and we have not got the internal border situation sorted out we could have a mess on our hands.”

However, Marques told him: “Mobility should be allowed in the Schengen area and the EU should harmonise the rules.

“Unfortunately, the EU is taking some time, member states are negotiating among themselves and this is not helping the coordinated approach.”