Italy urged fellow EU countries to work together to reanimate the tourism industry after the coronavirus pandemic, speaking against any bilateral deals between member states – after Rome reportedly considered doing just that.
All European countries should open their borders at once after passing the Covid-19 peak, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a speech broadcast on Facebook on Monday.
“We need to restart the country and ensure the safety of Italians. This is why Italy has the opportunity to welcome tourists from other EU countries in summer. We are already working on a safe and concrete tourist plan,” he stated.
Earlier in the day, the Italian foreign minister talked to his counterparts from other EU nations via a video link. The meeting was focused on reviving the tourism sector, which has been badly hit by the pandemic. For Italy, tourism is particularly important, as it remains one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean nation’s economy.
“We have agreed to work together on organizing the tourist season. There will be no tourism corridors based on bilateral agreements. It is unacceptable and goes against the spirit of Europe,” Di Maio said.
His statement apparently signaled a change of heart by Rome which, until recently, seemed eager to allow cross-border movement of tourists without waiting for other EU members. Last week, Italian media reported that the country’s authorities had been eyeing potential tourism deals with Germany, Russia, and China which would have envisioned the aforementioned “corridors.”
Over the weekend, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the country would allow entry to European tourists, scrapping the mandatory 14-day quarantine period starting from June 3. French officials immediately fired back at him. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused Rome of undermining the bloc’s unity.
“It’s very important for us to coordinate our decisions at the European level, especially, regarding the Schengen Area. But today it’s not happening,” Castaner said at the time.
Italy is among the worst coronavirus-affected nations, with more than 225,000 cases, including over 32,000 deaths registered. The country endured a harsh nationwide lockdown, but the spread of the virus has drastically slowed.