Brussels (Brussels Morning) The coronavirus pandemic has put European tourism under great strain, which has not received the necessary financial support to shoulder the crisis.
Tourism’s economic impact, with its related industries, such as culture, agri-food, building and transport, is around 11% of EU gross domestic product, and the sector employs 23 million citizens.
Despite the income it brings and its legal underpinnings within European Treaties, since December 2009, the tourism sector still does not have an autonomous funding line under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
For this reason, it is essential to create a new European fund exclusively dedicated to the tourism sector. The EU must offer practical and immediate solutions in these difficult times, mainly because most tourism businesses are family-run, risking bankruptcy without concrete support.
It is also crucial Member States avoid deciding unilaterally what actions to take for the busy ski season. In the summer, we avoided implementing European corridors that would have penalized the Member States most affected by the pandemic.
The fight against the coronavirus must be the first priority for Europe, but we do not want to ignore calls from the sectors bearing the economic brunt. Europe must reinvent itself without leaving anyone behind.
The coronavirus emergency, while it has brought the tourism sector to its knees, is the right opportunity to change and correct past mistakes. We need a new European program for tourism and ad hoc funds. We made this very proposal during a debate in the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Commission where several MEPs called for more support through specific measures.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton acknowledged during the hearing that tourism was the first sector affected by the virus and that it will probably be the slowest to recover from the crisis. This situation requires courageous choices, and for this reason, the Five Star Movement believes it is necessary to establish a specific program for tourism and a dedicated budget line in the 2021-2027 MFF and in the future Recovery Fund program. At the same time, we ask the European Commission to adopt extraordinary measures, in the current budget, for recovery and support for tourism sector operators.
The 5 Star Movement also asks for complete flexibility guaranteed by the new European framework on cohesion and state aid instruments, and we want clear and unambiguous rules at the European level. The Commission must act as a guarantor of this process. Italy will play its part with the Recovery Fund, which must be available to the Member States as soon as possible.
Exquisite Italian goods will soon be available again to Italians and tourists from all over the world. The Italian hospitality, renowned worldwide, will soon return. Meanwhile, Europe must be brave in defending the tourism sector.