Europe is ahead of the U.S. in getting through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic by a few weeks. They’re looking towards re-opening their economies and society. And each country seems to be looking at timetables differently – the focus appears to be at the national level, rather than at the level of the E.U.
- There have been rumbling in France about a September re-opening.
- Spain is talking about holding off tourism until the end of the year.
- And in Italy re-opening of borders and allowing travel may not come until “Beyond March 31.”
As the idea of Brexit was being hatched at a Pizzaria Uno at Chicago’s O’Hare airport there were efforts to erect border controls within Europe effectively bringing an end to the idea of a unified Europe, codified by the Schengen Agreement, which allows free passage within the confines of 26 countries that abolished border controls with each other, effectively becoming a single country for travel.
Whatever you thought of Brexit, and I was opposed, it seems almost a non-event in comparison to the developments in Britain and broader Europe (and the rest of the world) over the past two months. It may be possible to travel to (some parts of) Europe in the fall and still not be able to visit several countries while you’re there. Flights may be limited, quarantines imposed, or other restrictions could remain in place to keep out tourists who might bring with them the virus.
If each European goes there own way during crisis, what does that mean for Europe-wide responses to the virus? to recession/ to the continued idea of a unified Europe, if border controls are in place inside the European Union? Will there be pushback against closures that lead to frictions, especially once coronavirus cases do come in via travel, that spur another country to follow Britain’s lead in leaving? (The U.K. was not a part of the visa-free Schengen Area even as a part of the European Union.)
Plans to re-open the economy in phases are still speculative, and still just plans. They haven’t yet hit the reality of local politics (sustaining closures in the face of a struggling economy) or European politics (and pressure, perhaps coming from Germany and in exchange for economic aid, to follow a more unified approach). Thus pronouncements about re-opening Spain ‘at the end of the year’ and Italy ‘after March 2021’ are at this point merely suggestive of the challenges that international travel will face, rather than something to be taken at face value.