Belgium absent from German summer vacation planning

Belgium absent from German summer vacation planning
Authorities in the Knokke-Heist resort town. Credit: Google Street View

A meeting between the German Foreign Minister and several of his foreign counterparts to discuss the logistics of summer travel in 2020 will not include Belgium at this time.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will hold a videoconference on Monday with counterparts from ten countries that are popular with his fellow citizens for the summer holidays, to examine the gradual lifting of measures affecting the tourism sector.

Maas has invited Foreign Ministers of Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, Cyprus and Bulgaria to the call. This list leaves countries such as Belgium and France out of talks for now, which come two days before a broader meeting of the European Ministers for Tourism.

During the meeting, Ministers are expected to base discussions on the current European Commission's recommendations, although the European Commission is not involved in the videoconference.

On Wednesday, the European Commission presented a series of recommendations to “safely resume travel and reboot Europe’s tourism,” but left the decision of when its member states could open their borders to tourists, and when their own people can travel again up to the different countries.

Country perspectives

The appetite for reopening borders varies significantly between Member States, even those involved in the meeting

As it stands, Germany has not issued a foreign travel ban but has advised against non-essential travel abroad until 14 June. Maas said he hoped to provide advice that would enable travellers to make their own decisions.

Italy, which is economically reliant on tourism but hard hit by the pandemic, will reopen borders to EU tourists from 3 June and cancel the compulsory quarantine for foreign visitors. 

In Slovenia, the government, which announced on Friday that it wanted to open its border to all EU citizens, has backed down and will only open it gradually. The government intends to enter into bilateral agreements depending on the development of the disease in its neighbours.

In Belgium, things are yet to move at this speed. In an interview in Le Soir, Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin confirmed that the country would follow the Commission's recommendation to reopen the doors to Europeans, giving priority to regions that are in a comparable situation. Phase 3 of the deconfinement, which could answer tourist questions, will not come into effect until at least 8 June. Goffin will speak with his counterparts in the countries bordering Belgium this week.

The European Commission, for its part, has called on the Member States to provide it with more information on their border measures. 

The quality of the information and the speed of communication varies from country to country, which makes it challenging to provide citizens with the right information. In particular, there is no procedure for common information in real-time.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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