How to safely resume travel and reboot Europe’s tourism in 2020 and beyond
EU Commission presents a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions.
The Commission’s guidance aims to offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air. As soon as the health situation allows, people should be able to catch up with friends and family, in their own EU country or across borders, with all the safety and precautionary measures needed in place.
The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.
The Commission’s Tourism and Transport package includes:
- An overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond;
- A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
- A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel;
- A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
- Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.
For tourists and travellers
The Commission is looking to give people the ability, confidence and safety to travel again with the following measures:
- Safely restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls:
Free movement and cross-border travel are key to tourism. As Member States manage to reduce the circulation of the virus, blanket restrictions to free movement should be replaced by more targeted measures. If a generalised lifting of restrictions is not justified by the health situation, the Commission proposes a phased and coordinated approach that starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations. The approach must also be flexible, including the possibility to reintroduce certain measures if the epidemiological situation requires. Member States should act on the basis of the following 3 criteria:
epidemiological, notably focusing on areas where situation is improving, based on guidance by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and using the regional map developed by the ECDC;
the ability to apply containment measures throughout the whole journey including at border crossings, including additional safeguards and measures where physical distancing may be difficult to ensure and
economic and social considerations, initially prioritising cross-border movement in key areas of activity and including personal reasons.
The principle of non-discrimination is of particular importance: when a Member State decides to allow travel into its territory or to specific regions and areas within its territory, it should do so in a non-discriminatory manner – allowing travel from all areas, regions or countries in the EU with similar epidemiological conditions. In the same vein, any restrictions must be lifted without discrimination, to all EU citizens and to all residents of that Member State regardless of their nationality, and should be applied to all parts of the Union in a similar epidemiological situation.
Restoring transport services across the EU while protecting the health of transport workers and passengers:
The guidelines present general principles for the safe and gradual restoration of passenger transport by air, rail, road and waterways. The guidelines put forth a series of recommendations, such as the need to limit contact between passengers and transport workers, and passengers themselves, reducing, where feasible, the density of passengers.
The guidelines also include indications on the use of personal protective equipment such as face masks and on adequate protocols in case passengers present coronavirus symptoms. The guidelines also make recommendations for each mode of transport and call for coordination among Member States in light of re-establishment of gradual connections between them.
Safely resuming tourism services:
The Commission sets out a common framework providing criteria to safely and gradually restore tourism activities and developing health protocols for hotels and other forms of accommodation, to protect the health of both guests and employees. These criteria include epidemiological evidence; sufficient health system capacity being in place for local people and tourists; robust surveillance and monitoring and testing capacity and contact tracing. These guidelines will allow people to safely stay at hotels, camping sites, Bed&Breakfasts or other holiday accommodation establishments, eat and drink at restaurants, bars and cafés and go to beaches and other leisure outdoor areas.
Ensuring cross-border interoperability of tracing apps:
Member States, with the support of the Commission, agreed on guidelines to ensure cross-border interoperability between tracing apps so that citizens can be warned of a potential infection with coronavirus also when they travel in the EU. This will guide developers working with national health authorities. Such tracing apps must be voluntary, transparent, temporary, cybersecure, using anonymised data, should rely on Bluetooth technology and be inter-operable across borders as well as across operating systems. Interoperability is crucial: EU citizens must be able to receive alerts of a possible infection in a secure and protected way, wherever they are in the EU, and whatever app they are using. The Commission is supporting Member States in finding the right solution, in line with the principles set out in the EU toolbox and the Commission guidance on data protection.
Making vouchers a more attractive option for consumers:
Under EU rules, travellers have the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for cancelled transport tickets (plane, train, bus/coach, and ferries) or package travel. While reaffirming this right, the Commission’s recommendation aims to ensure that vouchers become a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips in the context of the current pandemic, which has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators. The voluntary vouchers should be protected against insolvency of the issuer, with a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable after at most one year, if not redeemed. They should also provide passengers sufficient flexibility, should allow the passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions or the travellers to book a package travel contract with the same type of services or of equivalent quality. They should also be transferable to another traveller.
For tourism businesses
The Commission aims to support Europe’s tourism sector by:
Ensuring liquidity for tourism businesses, in particular SMEs, through:
o Flexibility under State aid rules allowing Member States to introduce schemes, such as guarantee schemes for vouchers and further liquidity schemes, to support companies in the transport and travel sectors and to ensure that reimbursement claims caused by the coronavirus pandemic are satisfied. The schemes for vouchers can be approved by the Commission very rapidly, upon notification by the Member State concerned.
o EU funding: EU continues providing immediate liquidity to businesses affected by the crisis through the Coronavirus Response Instrument Initiative, under shared management with Member States. In addition, the Commission has made available up to €8 billion in financing for 100,000 small businesses hit by the crisis, with the European Investment Fund.
Saving jobs with up to €100 billion in financial relief from the SURE programme:
The SURE programme helps Member States cover the costs of national short-time work schemes and similar measures allowing companies to safeguard jobs. The Commission also supports partnerships between employment services, social partners and companies to facilitate reskilling, especially for seasonal workers.
Connecting citizens to local tourism offer, promoting local attractions and tourism and Europe as a safe tourist destination:
The Commission will work with Member States to promote a patronage voucher system under which customers can support their favourite hotels or restaurants. The Commission will also promote pan-European communication campaigns featuring Europe as a number one tourist destination.
To complement short-term measures, the Commission will continue to work with Member States to promote sustainable tourism in line with the European Green Deal and encourage a digital transformation of tourism services to offer more choice, better allocation of resources and new ways of managing travel and tourist flows.
The Commission will organise a European tourism convention with EU institutions, the industry, regions, cities and other stakeholders to jointly build the future of a sustainable, innovative and resilient European tourism ecosystem – the ‘European Agenda for Tourism 2050′.
Members of the College said:
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Tourism is vital to the Single Market and its four freedoms and a key contributor to the EU’s economic, social and cultural way of life. It has also been deeply impacted by the measures needed to contain COVID-19. As our Member States gradually lift restrictive measures, we are putting in place the foundations for rebooting the tourism eco-system and Single Market in a safe, proportionate way that will prevent the resurgence of the virus within the EU, whilst safeguarding our way of life.”
Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “Millions of SMEs and family -run businesses working in accommodation, restaurants, passenger transport and travel agencies risk bankruptcies and job losses – they urgently need to go back to work. We are helping European tourism get back on track while staying healthy and safe. Today we propose a common European approach to managing what will remain a difficult 2020 summer season, while preparing for a more sustainable and digital tourism ecosystem in the future.”
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: “We know how much European citizens are looking forward to summer and to travel. Their huge sacrifices over the past months will make a cautious and gradual reopening possible – for now. But deconfinement and tourism will not be risk free as long as the virus circulates among us. We need to maintain vigilance, physical distancing and rigorous health precautions across the whole tourism and transport ecosystem to prevent further outbreaks as much as possible. We will not allow our efforts to be lost.”
Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, said: “European consumers can be reassured: The Commission will not downgrade their EU rights for reimbursement for cancelled travel. We recommend, however, making vouchers more attractive for those who chose this option. In the meantime, freedom of movement is the right European citizens cherish most. It is important to restore this right as soon as the circumstances allow it.”
Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, said: “We aim to create safe conditions in every mode of transport, to the extent possible, both for people traveling and transport workers. As we re-establish connectivity, these guidelines will provide authorities and stakeholders a standard framework. Our priority is to restore mobility as soon as possible, but only with clear provisions for safety and health.”
TIME: Will China create a better world?
China is everywhere in global politics. China is “ubiquitous,” a retired Senior Colonel Zhou Bo of China’s PLA told in a conversation with TIME magazine. On March 10, in an agreement brokered by Beijing, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to normalize relations, after seven years of bitter rivalry in a deal that sidelined the U.S. Earlier, on February 24, China put forward a 12-point proposal for peace in Ukraine. On March 20, President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow, where he discussed the situation in Ukraine with Vladimir Putin.
Senior Colonel Zhou Bo spoke about what the “watershed moment” means for China and the world. He said:
– For Beijing, the war in Ukraine is a trigger for new security arrangements in Europe that will have to be made before peace returns. China’s proposal on peace in Ukraine is a big step forward. The success on mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia will encourage China to make more proposals, but the challenge is always to find road maps. With reform and opening up, as Deng Xiaoping said, China was trying to get across the river by feeling the stones on the riverbed, but now China is entering the ocean.
– We are talking about Global China. When Boris Johnson talked about Global Britain, it was probably more rhetorical. But Global China is definitely real. China is ubiquitous. China’s influence is everywhere. The PLA’s operations overseas are carefully chosen to be humanitarian in nature, but as your strength grows, people have higher expectations for you. We are talking about the world. This is the ocean we are wading in.
– China does have some sympathy with Russia on how this war came about because of NATO expansion, despite NATO’s promises on no expansion from time to time. China understands why Russia is resentful. When China stresses sovereignty must be respected, it also tries to look at it from a more comprehensive perspective. Countries like South Africa, Brazil, or India are taking similar positions like China on this.
– There is no doubt that China wants to see a ceasefire because China’s interests were damaged in Europe. Because of China’s neutrality, China’s relations with Western capitals have soured. This is ludicrous because China has nothing to do with this war.
– It does not make any sense that China, which has not provided weapons to Russia since the outbreak of the war, would change its mind, especially at a time when they have actually announced a peace plan. Why would Antony Blinken say that? By saying it, Blinken was actually giving a pre-emptive warning because China providing military support would be the worst fear of the U.S. But it’s totally impossible.
– The American presence in the region is not as strong as before, but the U.S. will not go away. But on this issue China is doing what the U.S. cannot do. Why? Because the U.S. doesn’t even have diplomatic relations with Iran. It cannot become a mediator between the two sides. The U.S. has allies in the region. It has to adopt double standards. Therefore, China can do a better job, but this is not an attempt to replace the U.S.
– If there were a war between Saudi and Iran, this would damage China’s interests, both economic interests and energy security, profoundly. So China needs to prevent a war and that may explain its new role.
– China depends on energy imports from the Middle East, which make up 40-50% of Chinese energy imports. We are trying to diversify, but that is the situation for now… At the same time, China’s activity in the Middle East now comprises almost everything, from building infrastructure to launching satellites to energy imports, therefore its stake on peace and stability in the Middle East has become higher.
– This is the first time China becomes directly involved in regional security. The biggest question of the 21st century is, if China’s rise is inevitable, will China create a better world? My answer is, at least it can make a safer world. At least it will make much less harm than the U.S.
War in Ukraine: Congress adopts a declaration of condemnation
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted on 21 March 2023 a Declaration to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine, presented by the Congress President and Rapporteur on The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, Leendert Verbeek (Netherlands, SOC/G/PD).
President Verbeek said that the Congress declaration is a clear message of condemnation of this brutal war and a strong reaffirmation of the Congress’ unwavering solidarity with Ukraine, its people and communities : “we must continue to show our Ukrainian friends, colleagues and peers – the elected leaders that are engaged in a battle for their lives, their citizens, their towns and their futures – that they are NOT forgotten and that we will do everything in our power now, and in the future, to support them.” President Verbeek also stressed that the declaration reiterated the Congress’ resolute support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
The debate was preceded by a video message from the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets. “The solidarity of our partners strengthens the stability of our resistance to the aggressor and our strong confidence in victory”, he underlined while speaking about the difficult humanitarian situation in Ukraine. He also stressed the importance of mechanisms for the protection of citizens’ rights on the local level for everybody. He described how his office was implementing this approach by opening representative offices of the Commissioner in each region.
In his speech, the Congress President praised the “extraordinary courage and resilience of the Ukrainians and their leadership as they relentlessly defend their country at the frontline and the home front. “The Congress commends the solidarity and unity of Europeans, their cities and regions. We call on all to continue to mobilise and provide large-scale financial, security and humanitarian assistance to their Ukrainian counterparts”, he highlighted.
During the debate, Congress members supported the creation of a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine and the setting up of an international compensation mechanism for the injury, damage and loss incurred by the State of Ukraine as well as natural and legal persons in Ukraine. “It is imperative to hold Russia accountable for all crimes and justice must be done for all the victims.”, stressed President Verbeek.
“The Congress stands by the Ukrainian people at this historically decisive time for Ukraine and the world and believes in a common, democratic future based on respect for international law and a just peace.”, he concluded.
The strategic situation in the Persian Gulf region has dramatically changed
The China-brokered Saudi-Iranian normalisation of diplomatic relations. What has happened is an epochal event, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.
Henry Kissinger drew the analogy of his own accomplishment in an extraordinary diplomatic career when, as Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon administration, he helped achieve rapprochement with Beijing amidst its tensions with Moscow.
One aspect of the Saudi-Iranian deal that has implications for India’s immediate external environment is that the strategic situation in the Persian Gulf region, India’s extended neighbourhood, has dramatically changed.
This can only be seen as the culmination of a series of repositioning on the part of the regional states that have been underway in the regional politics, as they increasingly took to diversifying their foreign policies away from the preponderant dependency on the West historically, and steadily and unmistakably began asserting their strategic autonomy with a newfound self-assuredness — be it Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt or Turkey.
Today, Israel stares at strategic isolation in its region and America, its mentor-cum-benefactor-cum-guardian-cum-protector, stands diminished.
Kissinger noted that ‘China has in recent years declared that it needs to be a participant in the creation of the world order. It has now made a significant move in that direction.’
Of course, Chinese President Xi Jinping himself stated last week that Beijing should ‘actively participate in the reform and construction of the global governance system’ and promote ‘global security initiatives’.
India cannot but be wary that the Biden administration’s main thrust is military deterrence fuelling an Asian arms race, with which India can identify only at the risk of grave consequences.
NATO’s defeat in Ukraine will seriously damage the transatlantic system and the US’ hopes that casting China as enemy might rally Europe are unrealistic. Besides, the China-Russia quasi-alliance will resist. Should India get sucked into the maelstrom?
The US strategies seriously impact peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, as they are anchored on bloc politics and confrontation, and their self-serving geopolitical agenda is to create a NATO-replica in the Asian continent.
The Anglo-Saxon clique known as AUKUS — comprising the US, Britain and Australia—opens a Pandora’s box as other countries will likely follow suit, which will seriously impact the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and even lead to its collapse. Will that serve Indian interests?
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