UPDATED May 14, 00:54: There has been no immediate breakthrough in removing national barriers for cross-border travel in Europe following an announcement from the European Commission on Wednesday that recommends certain protocols concerning safety and health measures, but little more.

“This is not going to be a normal summer, not for any of us,” European Commission vice-president, Margrethe Vestager said. She urged governments and businesses to follow Brussels’ recommendations so that “we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home – or a completely lost summer for the European tourist industry”. Tourism accounts for 10 percent of the EU’s GDP.

Individual countries are announcing their own relaxations. Germany will lift some restrictions on travel to and from Denmark and Luxembourg in the next few days, but is waiting until June 15 before fully opening its borders to France, Austria and Switzerland, according to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. However, cross-border business trips and family reunions will be allowed in the meantime, but will be subject to spot checks, he said.

The Commission has been pressing for countries or regions with similar levels of coronavirus infection to open up their borders, but this call has largely fallen on deaf ears. Countries to the east of Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland, both have much lower infection rates than Germany but must wait until June 15 before any relaxation.

June 15 is now widely accepted as the key date in relaxing cross-border controls in the Schengen area, and this will allow Europeans to take holidays within Europe, providing a boost to the tourist industry that has been hit very badly by the coronavirus crisis.

Horst Seehofer