18th Jan 2021


EU to discuss summer travel This WEEK

  • Schengen borders were slammed shut in March for all but essential goods to contain the pandemic (Photo: Paolo Margari)

Reopening of internal borders after the pandemic abates will take centre stage in talks by EU home affairs ministers on Tuesday (28 April).

They will "share views on the future easing or lifting of internal border controls in a coordinated manner," the EU Council said, with Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein, which take part in the EU's so-called Schengen free-travel zone, also joining Tuesday's virtual meeting.

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Free-travel is a pillar of European normality.

But political symbolism aside, people are wondering when they can be reunited with relatives abroad or go on holiday, amid tentatively positive news on flattening infection curves.

Ministers will also discuss future use of "tracing apps" to monitor disease outbreaks.

And they will discuss "the state of play and current challenges with regard to migration", as well as the "shift in criminal activities caused by the pandemic situation", the council noted.

EU transport ministers will follow up on Wednesday with video-talks on "how to coordinate the relaxation of measures currently in place in the sector in the context of the EU's exit strategy".

And as summer comes around the corner, EU tourism ministers will, on Monday, discuss "future action at national and EU level for the quick recovery of the tourism industry", which, the council said, had suffered a "sharp drop in demand and a surge in unemployment".

For their part, the heads of the European Commission, EU Council, and EU external action service will hold an Africa video-summit on Tuesday.

The event will see Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, and Josep Borrell discuss coronavirus, security, and migration with the leaders of the so-called 'G5 Sahel' countries - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

Individual commissioners will hold video-talks with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (Tuesday), the president of Microsoft (Thursday), and with pharmaceutical giants (Tuesday).

The FAO has issued dire warnings of pandemic-linked food shortages in Africa.

And the tech and pharma industries are on the front line of fighting the current and future viral outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament's economic affairs committee will hear from finance and economy commissioners Valdis Dombrovskis and Paolo Gentiloni on Monday, as infighting continues between EU states on pandemic bailouts.

MEPs on the civil liberties committee will discuss Libya migration the same day.

And the fisheries committee will discuss post-Brexit fishing rights on Thursday, in an always-lively subplot of the British-EU divorce drama.

But the only people meeting in reality in Brussels will be ambassadors and their aides from EU member states' permanent representations.

They still keep walking back and forth to committee meetings in the cavernous chambers of the council building, with about half a dozen such events planned this week, as the Belgian lockdown goes on, albeit with plans to relax measures later in May.


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