On 26 November 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Sergio Berlato, Raffaele Fitto, Carlo Fidanza, Nicola Procaccini and Raffaele Stancanelli of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“During the summer, many Member States unilaterally suspended the Schengen agreements, which provide for the free movement of persons and goods within the Schengen area.
Winter tourism in Italy accounts for 13% of GDP and employs over 4 million people. The first quarter of 2020 recorded a EUR 15.6 billion fall in the sector’s turnover.
Countries like Austria, Switzerland and France are thinking of keeping their winter sports facilities open, or are getting ready to do so; this would foster the establishment of a type of transalpine ‘anti-COVID area’, to the detriment of Italy.
While, on the one hand, the aim is to prevent Christmas from facilitating a new wave of infection, on the other, we must avoid going against the principles of the Schengen Treaty.
In view of this:
1. What action does the Commission intend to take to put an end to this discrimination perpetrated by some countries against Italy?
2. Will it impose sanctions on countries which adopt unilateral measures to the detriment of Italy?
3. Are there any plans for EU coordination in order to revive and support the winter tourism sector?”
On 12 February 2021, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The European Union has no competence as regards closing or opening of skiing facilities. National or regional governments decide what is appropriate in terms of health and safety measures in view of the epidemiological situation on their territory.
The Commission’s Communication of 2 December 2020 on staying safe from COVID-19 during winter notes the cross-border aspects of winter tourism and recommends that Member States carefully consider a common approach based on coordination, coherence and scientific evidence. This was discussed in the Council’s integrated political crisis response (IPCR) framework on the basis of scientific advice by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The State Aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission provides specific rules and guidance to Member States if they would like to support the economy in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. Member States may adopt measures to compensate companies for damage suffered as a result of the outbreak, including those related to winter sports.
Tourism and sport businesses may also be supported by cohesion policy under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+) allowing the flexible deployment of unused cohesion policy funds from the 2014-2020 programming period and under the REACT-EU. Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) helps Member States to cover the costs related to the financing of national short-time work schemes, and other similar measures they have put in place as a response to the pandemic, in particular for the self-employed.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/ski-saisonende-stop-winter-sports-4934177/