Europe has awakened its old demons for a sensitive subject. In the absence of coordination with its European neighbors, France could take “restrictive and dissuasive measures” to prevent the French from going skiing abroad at Christmas, especially in Switzerland, while the ski lifts will be closed in France in cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If there are countries which keep stations open, there will be controls to deter the French” and to “not create a situation of imbalance with stations in France”, Emmanuel Macron said after receiving the Premier Belgian Minister Alexander de Croo on Tuesday. “We will have restrictive and dissuasive measures” which “will be refined in the coming days with the government and depending on the review clause that was planned around December 11,” he said.
Switzerland, followed by Spain and Austria?
This hardening of tone seems to sound the death knell for the attempt at coordination in recent days: the day before, the government assured “to continue its discussions with its European partners so that a common approach can be adopted”. Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron again assured to want, with Berlin and Rome, “to convince” his “partners” not to reopen their stations, while Alexander de Croo considered necessary “a solidarity between countries” … while warning that Brussels will check its nationals returning from vacation abroad at its borders.
The ace ! If Berlin and Rome will keep their stations closed, Switzerland opens theirs, Spain and Austria could do the same, and even Andorra, of which Emmanuel Macron is “co-prince”, plans to follow suit. A form of “unfair competition” which raises concerns: “If Austria and Switzerland, which are our two main competitors, opened, it would pose a serious problem for Christmas and for the future”, declared Tuesday the CEO from Compagnie des Alpes, Dominique Marcel, to the Boursorama site.
Professionals are still calling for a reopening
“These are rather measures that reassure us,” reacted Jean-Luc Boch, president of the National Association of Mayors of Mountain Stations (ANMSM). The President of the Republic “realized that we could not close our ski areas and let others welcome our skiers, even if it means that they bring the virus home!”. “Switzerland has made publicity to promote a cross-border bus service to pick up our skiers!”, He assured.
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For Alexandre Maulin, president of Domaines skiables de France (DSF), “the misfortune of others has never made me happy”, and professionals continue to plead for a reopening. The mountain sector has not taken off since the announcement that the ski lifts will remain closed in December, therefore for the Christmas holidays and the pre-season which represent 20% of the activity, while the Prime Minister had seemed to open the door to reopen, if sanitary conditions improve. But the decision “has been arbitrated”, argued a government source.
“Places of brewing”
The stations are “brewing places” where “we meet in places that we have rented to several. We know that this is how we get infected and therefore we try to avoid it” for “not to sacrifice all the efforts that we have made”, argued Emmanuel Macron. “If unfortunately (…) the epidemic starts again (…) and this time it is from January to April that the winter sports resorts and the mountain resorts, we will all be the losers and, there, it is 80% of the turnover of the mountain economy which will be lost “, hammered the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, on Tuesday evening on LCI.
But, according to the president of the Pyrenean Confederation, Michel Poudade, “nothing prevented the government from implementing measures to have stations open, others closed depending on the region and health issues”. The announcement, Monday, of a series of aids – compensation for ski lifts, partial unemployment with “a zero charge” for seasonal workers – has by no means calmed the sector. Professionals and elected officials must come together to protest against the closure of ski lifts which weighs on the entire economy of the village resorts and valleys, this Wednesday morning in Bourg d’Oisans (Isère) and Bourg-Saint-Maurice (Savoie).
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