Portugal has urged member states and EU institutions to “act without delay” to support European tourism to recover from the crisis, also calling for rapid progress in the creation of the green passport.
“The COVID-19 crisis has put the sector under severe economic pressure and has had a particularly severe impact on small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up the vast majority of tourism businesses. We must therefore act without delay to provide financial support to alleviate the lack of liquidity of many tourism businesses, to prevent major job losses and to help the sector out of the recession,” Ana Paula Zacarias, secretary of state for European affairs, said.
Speaking on behalf of the Portuguese EU Council presidency in a debate on saving the summer tourist season at the European Parliament in Brussels, she said that the discussion was “timely” as it was “a critical moment to take decisive action in favour of tourism, just before the start of summer in Europe.
“We must take into account that recovery from the crisis will take longer for the tourism ecosystem than for other sectors since a large number of companies – as I said, mostly SMEs – were not prepared,” she said.
To enable this recovery, she also urged Europe to move forward on creating the digital passport proving recovery, testing or anti-covid-19 vaccination, a day before MEPs discuss the European Commission’s proposal for the digital green certificate, a step after which talks with member states begin.
“The European Parliament and the Council have an important role to play in approving the regulation on the digital green certificate to facilitate the free movement of travellers within the EU, as soon as possible and in safe conditions”, she said.
The legislative proposal presented by the EU executive in mid-March regarding creating a bilingual document with a QR code should come into force by June to allow the resumption of free movement within the EU in the summer.
In mid-April, EU member states approved a mandate for the Portuguese presidency of the Council to negotiate the proposal with the European Parliament.
On Thursday, it will be up to the European Parliament to vote and adopt its negotiating position, after which interinstitutional negotiations can begin.
“I am confident that this certificate, if properly equipped with the necessary guarantees of non-discrimination and personal data protection, will greatly contribute to this goal,” she said.
She also defended a “coordinated approach to travel restrictions within the EU and concerning third countries”.
Equally crucial for the recovery of tourism is “rapid progress in reversing the epidemiological situation and reducing the spread of coronavirus, accelerating the vaccination process”, she added.
“This requires increasing the production of vaccines and ensuring their availability in all member states, which will result in a faster resumption of safe mobility across Europe,” she told MEPs.
The tourism and travel sectors account for about 10% of European GDP.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]