Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has criticized the European Union’s proposed tourism plan that could allow special so-called green corridors between countries within the bloc, and threatened this could cause Italy to leave the EU.
The suggested tourism corridors would allow certain countries with low or sharply declining Covid-19 infection rates to open up to a select few destinations until borders are fully reopened.
“We don’t accept bilateral agreements inside the European Union that will create privileged tourists paths,” Conte said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“[Tourism] cannot be conditioned by bilateral agreements or we will be out of the European Union, we will never permit it”, he added, underlining that tourism represents up to 13% of Italian GDP.
Conte’s comments come as the EU is debating whether to permit the so-called “green corridors” or “travel bubbles” between countries according to their epidemiological situation.
Conte said he has told the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, that these “corridors” would mean the “destruction” of the EU’s single market.
The losses on the Italian tourism sector due to the coronavirus could be around 120 billion euros ($130 billion) until the end of the year, according to the Italian Confederation of Enterprises ‘Confcommercio’. Up to 420,000 jobs and 270,000 businesses in trade and tourism are also at risk.
The Italian government has allocated 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) to support the tourism and culture sector in its 55 billion euro ($60 billion) stimulus package to help the country recover from the economic hit of coronavirus crisis.
This includes tax cuts for business owners, a 500€ ($540) vacation bonus for families with an income under 40,000 euros to travel inside of Italy, and extending hotel vouchers valid from 12 to 18 months, the Minister of Tourism, Dario Francheschini announced on Thursday.
CLARIFICATION: The headline has been updated to indicate Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was critical of the European Union’s plan, which could allow special so-called green corridors.