Spring holidays are blooming in Spain – for foreigners, that is – POLITICO

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Want to escape to Madrid, Mallorca or the Canary Islands now? If you’re in France or Germany, just get on a flight. If you are in Spain you might be out of luck.

Spain’s current coronavirus travel restrictions make it easier for foreign tourists to travel thousands of kilometers to the country’s popular holiday destinations than it is for Spaniards to travel short distances to these places.

The rules, which block travel between Spanish regions, aim to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus during the spring break period – which includes a long weekend that has just ended and the upcoming Easter break from March 26 to April 9. Yet no similar restrictions have been put in place for international tourists, who can still fly to Spain. as long as they provide a negative COVID test.

As a result, the Spaniards watched in fury as thousands of French and German citizens began to arrive to make the most of their vacations sunbathing on scenic beaches or partying in major Iberian cities. Meanwhile, local Spaniards are barred from traveling shorter distances to visit friends and family in neighboring provinces, or to relax in second homes on the coast.

This is a situation that has highlighted the randomness of the EU’s travel restrictions during the pandemic. While EU leaders urged countries not to severely restrict travel between countries, national leaders have been free to impose local mandates based on their own COVID circumstances, sometimes leading to seemingly incongruous rules .

“Can anyone tell me why we can’t travel to see our grandparents, but the French can fly to Madrid to get drunk?” celebrity chef Karlos Arguiñano recently fulminated on her popular cooking show. “I’m from Guipúzcoa and I can’t go to La Rioja, right next door.… But the French can come in droves to Spain.… What is it?”

“La Marseillaise” to Madrid

The unequal rules for locals and tourists are evident in Madrid, where French tourists have stayed.

Despite the city consistently high novel coronavirus infection rates, the president of the community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, ignored calls from national health authorities and refused to close bars and restaurants. The move drew thousands of Gallic residents, who fled curfews and closures in their home countries and made Madrid their own noisy mini-Paris.

Last weekend, Spanish press teams captured streets crowded with young French visitors drinking, strolling and rage “La Marseillaise” by traveling between bars. Meanwhile, local police have closed 227 illegal house parties, many of them in Airbnb are full of foreign tourists.

Victor Rey, president of the Association of Neighbors of Sol y Las Letras, which represents the inhabitants of the historic center of Madrid, said that the city’s oldest district has been transformed into “an amusement park in which tourists foreigners can do whatever they want “.

Rey said that while French visitors have been arriving in increasing numbers since the start of the year, their numbers have increased over the long weekend last week. He fears there will be more of it during the next break.

“This neighborhood has the highest number of vacation apartments in the country, but they are located in buildings where the majority of residents are older, local residents who were born and raised here,” Rey said. “COVID presents a huge risk to these people, and they have to deal with drunk French children partying in the streets or at impromptu parties in their buildings, day in and day out. “

Despite hundreds of complaints from local residents, Rey said local authorities had failed to take action to stem the influx of tourists.

“Even the police told us there was nothing they could do – that they just did not have enough officers to enforce the curfew on the streets or stop parties in our buildings,” he said. -he declares. “And since the rules prevent us from traveling outside the region, we can’t get away from it either. We’re stuck with these people.”

The “German” island

In Mallorca it is not the French, but the newly arrived German tourists who dominate the landscape. Crowded flights have landed on the Balearic Island since it was taken off the list of coronavirus risk areas earlier this month.

While the Germans have so far been less noisy As their Gallic counterparts, the Spaniards are furious that these international visitors can easily jump from Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich, while the people of Valencia are not allowed to take a 45-minute flight to the neighboring island.

“German citizens come from areas with infection rates that almost quadruple those of the Balearic Islands, but the Spaniards are locked in their regions,” complained radio commentator Isaías Lafuente during a segment on “German privilege”.

Responding to local outcry, Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Daria on Monday highlighted that the Spaniards enjoyed the same rights to travel elsewhere in the EU.

“Just as any Spanish citizen can go to any European city without any restrictions, any citizen of the Schengen zone can go to Spain,” she said.

She added that once inside the country, foreigners are expected to follow national travel rules.

While tourists may offer momentary comfort to hotel and bar owners who have not seen customers for months, Carlos Abella, president of the tourism industry group Mesa del Turismo, said the influx foreign companies will not be enough to cover the lost income. to keep Spanish residents stuck at home.

“The restrictions imposed on the market make a normal season impossible, and conflicting messages from the German government – which lets its citizens travel, but at the same time warns them – are already leading to cancellations,” he said. “Only 12% of the hotels on the island are open, so even if they were to be filled with Germans, the economic impact would be minor.”

Abella described Spain’s restrictions as “bordering on Kafkaesque,” full of illogical loopholes.

“Nothing prevents someone from Barcelona from flying to Mallorca as long as they make a stopover in Berlin,” he said. “None of this makes sense, and it shows how much coordinated European leadership is lacking on this front.”

Abella said that, given the minor impact of Easter travelers, her group was actually in favor of a strict lockdown during spring break in order to travel to the summer without a fourth wave of coronavirus in Spain.

“While people entering are theoretically safe and arriving with negative PCR test results, we really can’t afford to take any chances,” Abella added. “We have to do everything in our power to have a decent summer season because without it our industry simply will not survive.”

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