EU spat: Brussels row over borders could scupper holidays from coronavirus hotspots

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Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz suggested he could ban tourists from member states that have yet to get their coronavirus outbreak under control. His claim sparked fears from pandemic-stricken southern capitals who are heavily reliant on their tourism industry. But it could also have repercussions for British travellers hoping to leave the Continent’s hardest-hit country for a summer break.

Mr Kurz said: “We want to do everything we can to advertise vacation in Austria and to show people that vacation in Austria is safe.

“However, we will not open our borders to countries that are not yet in control of the situation.”

He added Vienna “will be able to offer Austrian guests, but also guests from other safe countries such as Germany, a maximum safety and at the same time a maximum of pleasure”.

But Mr Kurz said it would be “irresponsible” to open the Brenner pass border that separates Austria and Italy.

Rome has has called for “solidaristic approach” to allow European holidays this summer.

Its EU affairs minister Enzo Amendola said: “Closing external borders as a solution for tourism in Austria doesn’t seem to me to be a sensational trick.”

He added countries should work with the European Commission to reopen borders “based on epidemiological data, without unilateral decisions”.

Italy’s EU ambassador Maurizio Massari said: “The decision by a member state to reopen its borders must apply to all parts of the Union in a similar epidemiological situation and should be taken on a fully objective basis.”

The EU must “avoid any kind of discrimination among member states and their citizens,” he told Politico.

“We need to have a solidaristic approach until the end of this crisis – ‘in together, out together’ – not only in financial terms, but also in behaviours.”

Despite efforts in Brussels to create a bloc-wide blueprint for summer holidays, a series member states have announced their own plans.

Spain has suggested foreign visitors could return this summer when ministers open the door for international travel.

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Environment minister Teresa Ribera said Spanish citizens would soon be able to move around the country freely.

She said: “Our approach applies to both inside and outside the country.

“It doesn’t make sense to think about international visitors until there is freedom of movement in the country, but we have never ruled out having international visitors if we can guarantee that people can move around within Spain.”

Her comments highlight serious issues within some member states over the need to kickstart tourism.

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The industry accounts for around 12 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product.

Bosses have warned if the summer season is lost it could deal a €120 billion blow to the Spanish economy.

British holidaymakers could be allowed to take advantage of so-called “air bridges” that allow travellers to move between low-risk regions and countries.

Greece and Portugal have suggested opening up a route for UK travellers to enter the country without being subject to quarantine restrictions.

But other countries could instead consider opposing British tourists because of the country’s high death toll during the pandemic.

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