Travel within Europe should be possible again from mid-June. The EU Commission has made recommendations for this. We clarify the most important questions.
The summer vacation will start in a few weeks and it is still uncertain which vacation will be possible. It is not only the tourism industry that is putting pressure on it, more and more citizens are also wanting clarity. Can you book a trip or should you rather cancel a booked trip? Under the motto “Europe needs a break”, the EU Commission has now presented recommendations for holiday trips in the Schengen area this summer. However, much remains approximate. We provide answers to the most important questions.
When can we go abroad again?
The travel warning for tourist purposes, which has been in effect worldwide since March 17, is to be gradually relaxed according to the plans of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas – he did not want to commit to specific dates. It should start with European countries – as long as the infection process remains under control almost everywhere in the EU. Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer has announced that border controls on Germany’s neighboring countries will end soon – as of this Saturday (May 16) controls should only be carried out on a random basis and no longer systematically. Seehofer nevertheless called on the population to continue to do without tourist trips abroad.
After all, there should be talks with the neighboring countries in the coming days to find the most uniform rules for travel in Europe to find. Because border closings and openings always have two sides. So it may be that one country opens its border, but so strict entry regulations apply to the other country that free travel is still hardly possible. This is exactly the case in the current phase of easing.
Politicians have promised that all controls at the German border will cease to apply from June 15 at the earliest. But even then it does not mean that free travel will again be possible in the entire Schengen area, which includes 26 European countries.
What plan has the EU Commission presented?
When it comes to tourism, it can EU commission do not prescribe border openings – it can only formulate general recommendations. That is exactly what she did and presented a rough framework in Brussels. “We want to enable tourism. It will not be a normal summer – but it will not be a complete summer at home and it will not be a lost summer for the tourism industry,” said Vice President of the EU Commission, Margrethe Vestager. The condition for tourist trips within the EU is that the risk of infection is very low everywhere and that there is sufficient capacity in the health system in all tourist regions. In addition, there must be sufficient Covid 19 tests.
New strict hygiene and safety requirements should apply to hotels and holiday parks, and the number of guests should be limited in order to comply with distance rules. The staff of hotels must be trained, guests should be regularly informed about news from the authorities, the EU Commission suggests. In the event of an outbreak, contact tracking must be guaranteed. The EU is therefore promoting a tracing app that works everywhere in Europe. However, such is not yet available.
A maximum number of guests should continue to be set for restaurants or cafés. In addition, the EU Commission proposes slots for meals in the holiday homes, but also fixed times of use for the pool or the gym, so that the facilities do not get too crowded.
But there is a problem: At the moment, the hygiene rules, minimum distances and regulations differ in the individual countries and there often also differ considerably depending on the region. For this reason, a website is intended to provide information on the respective infection events and supply capacities on the one hand and the protective regulations on the other.
And what does that mean specifically?
Even if it is unsatisfactory: At the moment it is unclear when and how vacation trips can take place within Europe – and what specific rules will apply on Mallorca, the Greek Islands, on the Côte d’Azur or for Danish holiday homes. The only thing that is clear is that politics will presumably want to allow tourism in a slimmed-down form from mid-June. So if you have booked a trip within the EU for the summer vacation, you can hope that this – possibly with restrictions – can take place.
Families in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the vacation starts on June 22nd, are hit harder than families in Bavaria, where the summer vacation begins much later. If it is not clear until June 15th when and how a trip abroad is possible, it could be too late for many to book something at short notice. But there is planning security only when the travel warnings are lifted and both Germany and the respective holiday country have agreed on a regulation.
On the website of the Federal Foreign Office the currently applicable regulations can be found – for each individual holiday country and broken down there for individual regions, provided there are regional indications or warnings. In addition, one Find overview for all European countries.
What does travel warning actually mean?
The Federal Foreign Office issues either travel advice or travel warnings. Notes are tips, warnings are clearly discouraging – but not a ban. In theory, you can still travel further or stay abroad. However, if you cancel a trip due to the warning, you have the right to have the cancellation free of charge. For travel organizers, the presence of a travel warning in turn means the obligation to reimburse the travel price already paid.
Normally, travel warnings are only given when there is a “danger to life and limb” – before the Corona crisis there were, for example, civil war countries such as Syria.
In connection with closed borders, a travel warning ultimately prevents people from traveling without a valid reason. Politicians have opted for these drastic means to effectively prevent too much mobility and the spread of the virus.
What about the quarantine arrangements?
Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer asked the federal states to abolish the quarantine rule that had previously applied. So far, people who come to Germany from abroad have had to go to quarantine at home for 14 days. However, Bavaria has already announced that it will not initially abolish the quarantine rule for those arriving in Germany that is still valid until May 17, but instead will extend it until June 15 in accordance with the duration of the border controls.
However, data are already available for some border openings. What is already clear?
The border with Luxembourg is to be fully opened on Saturday, and Denmark is also under discussion. The controls at the borders with France, Switzerland and Austria will be extended until June 15 in consultation with these countries. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that the border to Germany would be fully reopened on June 15, and Switzerland would also like to reopen its border with Germany that day. As of Friday, there should only be random checks. Then restaurants and cafés can open again in Austria, and from May 29th also hotels and holiday apartments.
This means that anyone who wants to go to Austria over Pentecost can do this theoretically – but you have to expect to be checked at the border. When entering Austria, the current rule is that you must have a medical certificate with you that confirms that you are healthy. The certificate must not be older than four days. However, if you return to Germany from Austria and the quarantine regulations are still in effect, you have to isolate yourself for 14 days.
Poland has just renewed border controls. The borders to Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania remain largely closed until June 12th and can only be crossed at certain crossings and with an accepted travel reason, such as goods traffic.
Can I book a trip abroad now and what do the consumer advice centers advise?
Some tour operators are still offering flights and vacation travel this summer. Greece has been declaring for some time that it wants to make tourism possible this summer. In theory, nothing stands in the way of a booking. Nevertheless, there are still too many imponderables. The consumer center Hamburg advises, for example, to book a package tour for the period after the travel warning. Unlike individual trips, package tours are secured by a so-called security certificate – then down payments are also secure in the event of the travel company’s insolvency. The situation is somewhat different for individual trips. As long as borders are closed, no travel price has to be paid in this case either. However, only German law applies here. If you have booked with the provider abroad, the law applicable there applies. The analogous regulation exists for air travel. The main recommendations of the consumer protection centers on the subject of consumer rights when traveling in the pandemic are can be found in a FAQ on the website of the Federal Association.
What you can book, however, are vacations in Germany – these should be largely allowed. The federal government also advises travelers to travel within Germany.
Do I have to accept a voucher if I cancel?
In the debate about vouchers for canceled trips, the EU Commission still wants to give consumers the choice, but it also makes it clear that EU law continues to apply: So the costs of flight tickets and package tours must be reimbursed, including in Form of cash. However, Germany wants to oblige vacationers to initially accept a voucher instead of a reimbursement if they cancel their trip. The EU Commission had shown little courtesy recently. That is why the coalition is also looking for alternatives, such as a fund for the travel industry. Other countries have already adopted national regulations that contradict EU law.
The EU Commission is now recommending that the EU states make the vouchers as attractive as possible. They should be protected against bankruptcy of the provider and should be exchangeable for money until they expire. In addition, the vouchers should be able to be used as flexibly as possible, for example for other company products.
What to consider when canceling can also be found in this FAQ.
Does the international health insurance cover my treatment if I suffer from Covid-19?
As a rule, the insurance pays for the treatment costs – however, it is advisable to look into the conditions and, if necessary, to consult the insurance company.
Will freedom of travel increase the number of new infections in the EU?
Some health experts such as the SPD member of the Bundestag, Karl Lauterbach, fear that the number of new infections will increase again. He wrote on Twitter in response to the announcement that travel within the EU could be possible from mid-June, a second wave of the pandemic can be expected in autumn: “If travel, bar visits, beach vacations become possible again so quickly, rising infection rates can hardly be avoided . ” If there were to be a second wave in the fall, according to Lauterbach, there would be a new lockdown at the start of school. In Austria, virologists also criticized the Austrian government’s plans to open the border and re-allow tourism.