The European Union must shoot for a more ambitious COVID-19 recovery plan than the landmark 750 billion euro stimulus agreed last summer after the epidemic’s first wave, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said on Sunday.
Beaune said Europe must not repeat errors made after the global financial crisis a decade ago and this time should underpin the recovery with investment, in fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, green and digital technologies, among others.
Asked in an interview on LCI television how much would be needed, Beaune said: “No doubt something like a doubling (of the existing fund).
“The economic response has to be more ambitious,” he said.
Beaune said he hoped the EU’s 27 member states would ratify the recovery fund by May and that the 750 billion euros would be available from the summer.
France is due to receive 40 billion euros under the scheme.
EU governments are still submitting detailed spending plans for their share of the pot, and frustration is growing in Paris and some other capitals at the slow speed of disbursing the money.
In an interview published on Saturday, European Council President Charles Michel said he did not share the view held by some that the EU’s recovery fund was insufficient when compared with the U.S. spending plan.
France also mentioned that they might not be able to fully reopen come Summer. France said on Sunday it was too soon to say whether holidays abroad would be possible this summer as a third wave of coronavirus infections continues to spread through Europe.
Tough COVID-19 restrictions are enforced in many European countries, hitting recovery prospects for the tourism industry’s crucial peak season as governments are struggling to define a timeframe for the gradual reopening of national borders.
“I cannot say to you when we will be able to resume travel within Europe,” French Minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune told LCI television. “I hope it will be possible this summer.”
Beaune called the existing travel restrictions a “necessary evil” and said European Union member states would need to coordinate the easing of rules when the time came.
“We’re doing all we can so that travel can resume between French regions, and then Europe hopefully by the summer, but I cannot today give you a fixed calendar,” the minister continued.
The nagging uncertainty also weighs on France’s own tourism industry. France was the most visited country in the world before the pandemic struck, with nearly 90 million foreign tourists visiting in 2018. Tourism accounts for about 7% of GDP.
Europe’s vaccination rollout has lagged behind those in Britain and the United States.
On Friday, the British government unveiled a new traffic light system for travel, saying citizens could now think about booking summer vacations abroad.