A man wearing a mask walks past clients queueing to enter Louis Vuitton shop on the Champs-Elyees avenue in Paris on May 11, 2020 on the first day of France's easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (AFP/Eric Piermont)
The EU will present recommendations on Wednesday to save the summer season in Europe’s reeling tourism sector, which has been pounded by the coronavirus crisis.
The European Commission will urge EU countries to gradually reopen shuttered internal borders and to above all treat each member state on the same criteria.
According to a draft seen by AFP, the Commission insists that reopening of everyday life after the pandemic must be done in a "concerted" and "non-discriminatory" manner and must remain "as harmonious as possible".
The points are only recommendations on the part of the EU's executive as it is up to national governments to decide whether to lift the restrictions put in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Brussels recommends that when countries are in a comparable epidemiological situation and have adopted the same precautionary measures, they should be treated in the same way.
If, for example, Austria opens its borders with Germany, it must also open its borders with the Czech Republic if that country is in a comparable situation to Germany.
Similarly, when a country opens its borders with another country, it must do so for all the residents of that country, whether or not they are nationals of that country.
This issue of restoring freedom of movement within the passport-free Schengen area is crucial for European tourism, a sector which accounts for 10 percent of the EU's GDP and 12 percent of employment.
In some southern European countries, such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, this impact is even greater and if holidaymakers were to stay home, their already bad economic situation could worsen further.
In its recommendations, the commission also addresses the thorny issue of whether or not to reimburse cancelled trips and holidays.
Under EU rules, the European consumer is entitled to a cash refund, but many operators and airlines prefer to offer a credit instead.
"Carriers and tour operators should follow a common approach, offering passengers and travellers an attractive choice between a cash refund, in line with their rights under EU law, or the acceptance of a voucher," the document said.
Late last month, 12 European countries asked the European Commission to suspend the obligation for airlines to reimburse passengers whose journeys have been cancelled because of the coronavirus.
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