Eleven EU member states, including Greece, on Monday agreed on a set of principles to ensure the freedom of safe travel within the EU, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, through the broadest possible coordination of tourism policies and the gradual lifting of border controls.
The agreement was announced following a videoconference that took place between the ministers of foreign affairs of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Austria and Slovenia.
“Freedom of movement and travelling across Europe is a fundamental part of the European project,” the ministers said in a joint statement.
In accordance with the guidelines announced recently by the European Commission for restoring tourism and transport in the post-Covid-19 period, the ministers’ agreement focuses on a phased and coordinated approach for lifting internal border controls in order for citizens to move freely in the Union and be able to return home.
According to the joint statement, four principles were agreed on:
– An approach of phased steps, coordinated and agreed among EU Member States, to achieve a gradual normalization of cross-border travelling.
– Exploring ways of allowing travel while avoiding an increase in (coronavirus) infections.
– To ensure that EU citizens cannot just travel freely within Europe, but can also safely return home. “Thus, we need to coordinate closely regarding conditions for lifting rules of confinement and of quarantine and regarding the restoration of transport services… it will also be important to work on a common understanding of health-related standards and procedures.”
– The restoration of the freedom of cross-border movements can be achieved progressively, provided current positive trends continue leading to comparable epidemiological situations in countries of origin and of destination.
“We call on tourism businesses and related private actors to use the coming weeks to take appropriate precautionary measures to protect travelers once freedom of movement and travelling is restored. We believe this is a crucial element to rebuild public trust in the safety of travelling,” the joint statement said.
Moreover, the ministers expressed their “common goal” to coordinate their approach among European partners as closely as possible – even though the situation concerning the Covid-19 pandemic continues to differ from country to country – with a view to restore freedom of movement and safe travel in the near future.
A second videoconference is expected to take place on Tuesday, May 19, between all the ministers of foreign affairs of the region (member states of the EU and countries of the Western Balkans) to discuss the careful return to normalcy and mutual beneficial cooperations.
Speaking to RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) on Monday, Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias said that Greece succeeded in remaining a safe country for its citizens during the pandemic.
“We also want it to remain safe for tourists – our guests, whom we hope to welcome back to enjoy Greece’s beautiful summer again this year,” he said.
The coronavirus has so far infected 2,836 people in Greece and the death toll has reached 165, still among the lowest among EU member-states.
The country on Monday entered its Stage 3 in lifting Covid-19 restrictions.