EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said guidelines will be established by mid-May on an exit strategy to restart cross-border operations, including air transport, but stresses the timing depends on the situation sanitary.
In her April 22 speech, she was hesitant to anticipate the finalization of specific measures allowing the resumption of flights, but indicated that there would be guidelines on restoring travel and tourism this season, through measures such as social distance, rules at airports and on board aircraft. – covering aspects such as disinfection – and wearing protective equipment.
“Probably by mid-May, we will be able to propose the strategy we are working on,” she said, adding that it would include “horizontal principles” of rules to be followed when reopening travel routes.
Valean says she “cannot say” when services will be restored, as the health situation needs to be prioritized, but stresses that coordination between member states is essential.
“It is better to have a harmonized approach than to have everyone take their own actions,” she adds.
Health specialists will establish the criteria that the Member States of the European Union must accept in order to ensure a common approach to cross-border travel.
“We must make sure that the health criteria are well respected and in place before any relaxation in travel,” explains Valean.
She suggested that measures of social distancing should continue with regard to air transport, the mode of transport which, in her view, had been the hardest hit.
“I know full well that this health crisis is here to stay for a long time, until we can find a good treatment or vaccine,” she said. “I think that measures that have proven to be effective, such as social distance, will be respected in one way or another. For transportation, this is very important. “
The Commission has already drawn up a common “road map” for lifting the containment measures in response to the need for an exit strategy.
“Although the timetable and specific arrangements vary from one Member State to another, it is essential that there is a common framework,” he says. “The lack of coordination in the lifting of restrictive measures risks having negative effects for all member states and creating political friction.”
Coordination, decision-making based on emerging scientific evidence and solidarity and respect are the three central principles that must guide the actions of EU states, she adds. He acknowledges that some of these principles were “questioned” at the start of the crisis, but that the situation has since improved.
The EU described support measures, including contact tracing on mobile, harmonized testing and data collection to reduce “important unknowns” about the extent of the infection, particularly among asymptomatic individuals – as well as the “crucial” development of a vaccine.
Its roadmap does not refer to air transport in depth, beyond mentioning its efforts to “minimize the impact” on operators through measures such as the relaxation of the rules of time slots.
But it does indicate the thinking behind the easing of restrictions on transport services in general, highlighting the need for a “phased approach” to open internal and external borders and restore the normal functioning of the Schengen area.
“The travel restrictions and border controls currently applied should be lifted once the epidemiological situation in border regions has sufficiently converged and the rules of social distancing are applied in a broad and responsible manner,” he said.
“Travel restrictions should first be relaxed between areas with relatively low virus circulation.”