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Will Easter holiday travel be possible in Germany this year?

A row has broken out across Germany as to whether travel the during Easter holidays in early April will be possible in 2021.

Will Easter holiday travel be possible in Germany this year?
A closed-off pier in the Baltic Sea resort of Kühlungsborn, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in Easter 2020, when Germany's first lockdown took place. Photo: DPA

In 2021, the Easter holidays fall earlier in April than usual: on Good Friday, April 2nd through Easter Monday on April 5th. The four-day weekend is typically a time for travel for many people, both domestically and sometimes abroad. 

But some say travel should be off the cards this year.

Saxony’s state premiere Michael Kretschmer of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and health politician Karl Lauterbach of the Social Democrats (SPD) don’t believe Easter holiday travel is possible this year, warning that a third wave could be on the way.

Other state premiers, however, have cautioned against deciding so quickly.

READ ALSO: 'The virus is our opponent': Merkel defends Germany's shutdown extension

“I’m in favour of speaking the truth,” Kretschmer told Bild am Sonntag. “The Easter holidays in Germany unfortunately can’t happen this year.”

He warned that too much moving around by the population would destroy the successes already achieved in the fight against the pandemic.

Kretschmer was backed by Lauterbach. “I don’t assume that we will be able to take Easter vacations this year,” Lauterbach told Die Welt. 

The Easter weeks must be spent, he said, “with as few contacts as possible to avert the still looming third wave and dangerous mutations”.

Germany’s current shutdown extends until March 7th, but it remains unclear if current restrictions, which include the closures of restaurants, tourism infrastructure and cultural institutions, will be extended further. 

While newly-reported coronavirus figures continue to drop, Germany is worried about three mutations which have been detected in the majority of German states.

What other states say

Schleswig-Holstein's head of government Daniel Günther (CDU) doesn’t want to call Easter holidays into question just yet, however. He said the state premiers had agreed on a clear roadmap to develop an opening strategy for the gastronomy and accommodation sectors as well. 

“Our goal must be to be able to experience a different Easter than last year,” Günther told Die Welt, referring to Germany's first lockdown in spring 2020 which also saw countrywide closures of most industries and a halt on travel.

Bavarian state premiere Markus Söder (CSU) pointed out that Easter is “about seven weeks away. The point is to act wisely and step by step,” he said.

He added that this “applies to those who are already saying what should not be possible for the next six months, as well as to those who say that everything must be opened up immediately”.

Saxony-Anhalt's head of government Reiner Haseloff also advised caution. In the ARD program Report from Berlin, he said that a clear exit plan from the current shutdown was needed.

The federal government's tourism commissioner, Thomas Bareiß (CDU), was reluctant to make predictions, advising to wait and see how things develop.  

“After all, Easter is not until April 4th,” he wrote on Twitter.

The association of owners of vacation apartments and vacation homes (Verband der Eigentümer von Ferienwohnungen und Ferienhäusern) also warned against premature decisions.

If the incidence level is pushed back to below 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days, travel should be allowed at Easter under hygienic conditions, association president Daniel Rousta said.

‘This is how you squander trust’

A comprehensible and secure plan needs to be made rather than just continuing to keep public life shutdown, said Jan Korte, parliamentary director of the Left Party, in an interview with Die Welt. This is how trust is squandered, he added.

Criticism also came from the Free Democrats (FDP). “With Mr. Kretschmer, Merkel's course of lack of perspective (for openings) continues,” said deputy parliamentary group leader Michael Theurer. “This is how you wear people down.”

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's extended Covid-19 measures – and opening plans

 

COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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