Spain positively assesses homogenisation of mobility criteria in EU

The General Affairs Council (GAC) of the European Union, made up of the European affairs ministers of the EU Member States, adopted at today’s session, held in Luxemburg, the Recommendation on the coordinated approach by the EU on the restriction of free movement in response to the pandemic. Spain was represented at the GAC by the State Secretary for the European Union, Juan González-Barba. By making this Recommendation, Europe seeks greater coordination in preserving mobility between Member States. Following the lockdown, this is the first effective recommendation for the homogenisation of information criteria.

For the State Secretary for Global Spain, Manuel Muñiz, with competence for mobility issues, “this Recommendation contains important aspects that Spain has been advocating since free movement in the European Union began to be eroded as from mid-August. This is a success story for our economic diplomacy since minimum requirements are established in terms of mobility, while leaving the door open for Member States to introduce laxer measures at border crossings if the epidemiological situation so permits. This Recommendation offers us guarantees and assurances to navigate the uncertainties of the second wave of COVID-19, protect the mobility of vital groups for our economy, while giving us sufficient margin to manoeuvre in establishing more ambitious bilateral agreements with our European partners. This means that we can continue working, this time under the framework of a Recommendation adopted by the Council of the European Union, in establishing tourism corridors with those regions that so require”.

For the Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, “this agreement is the first step in the reactivation of international tourism activity, because it contains proportional and predictable measures that allow passenger confidence to be enhanced. It also positively assesses the preference for the performance of testing at source and/or destination as a preferable measure to quarantines”. Reyes Maroto recalled that Spain has shown greater ambition at all the debates in defending the free movement of travellers as a general principle of the EU that allows Europe to once again become a destination for safe travel. “We will continue working to achieve this general rule that allows international tourist flows to be recovered under safe health conditions – a key element for the reactivation of our tourism sector”.

The Recommendation, adopted at the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper), despite being a text that is fundamentally indicative and of minimums, seeks to establish standardised criteria and data which guarantee safe and non-discriminatory free movement at a European Union level, strengthen coordination mechanisms and improve information available to the public. To date, each Member State had established its own restrictions on citizens from other countries under their own criteria and guidelines, often very different to each other’s. Under the new Recommendation, the assessment criteria are standardised and the risk of discrimination between European citizens is eliminated.

Spain positively welcomes this Recommendation since it reflects our position on fundamental elements: the exclusion of border closures as a measure to adopt, the protection of the mobility of particularly sensitive and important groups, such as those travelling to carry out an essential function (health workers, hauliers, patients travelling to receive medical treatment, passengers in transit, students that must travel to attend classes on a regular basis, diplomats, military personnel and police officers, and journalists exercising their functions, among other groups) and the regionalisation of the assessment and implementation of measures. Specific mention is also made of peripheral and outermost regions, such as islands, which Spain has advocated be treated on an individual basis.

The Recommendation also contains an express mention of the preference for the performance of testing at source and/or destination in preference to quarantines or self-isolation, and also invites States to continue cooperating on the mutual recognition of results and on forms to localise passengers (opening up the possibility of a European form).

Defence of free movement and a first step in reactivating international tourist activity

Through this Recommendation, Europe seeks greater coordination while preserving the principle of free movement between Member States. It establishes minimum mobility conditions on which Member States can implement laxer criteria according to the health circumstances.

The text enshrines the role of the European Disease Prevention and Control Centre (ECDC) for gathering information and drawing up maps to enhance the transparency of the whole process. Each week, the ECDC will make a provision of data to consider essential criteria (incidence rates, tests and positive cases) and complementary criteria (population, hospital admittance rates, ICU admittance rates and mortality rates). This body will distribute this information in three separate maps according to the three indicators defined as essential: at a regional level, accumulated incidence rate, and at a national level, PCR test rates and positive test rates; it will also draw up a combined map based on traffic light colour codes.

The Recommendation approved in Luxemburg also establishes the need for the early provision of information to the public and operators, following, whenever possible, the general rule of 24-hour anticipation in the use of the Re-open EU website. In the case of the adoption of national measures, the Member States affected must be informed on a priority basis.





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