The German chancellor, alongside Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, has expressed support for a Europe-wide decision on whether to close ski resorts across the continent. However, Austria has voiced concern, leading to a growing split in Brussels.
Speaking in the Bundestag yesterday, Ms Merkel said: “We will try to get a vote in Europe on whether we could close all ski resorts.
“Unfortunately, considering announcements from Austria, it doesn’t look like we can do that so easily, but we will try again.”
Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel criticised the plans and said, if the EU forced resorts to remain closed, “then they will have to pay for it”.
The Austrian government is already facing legal action over the Ischgl ski village, which was linked to cases in 45 countries after skiers brought the deadly virus home with them.
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Bavaria, Austria’s neighbour, has now introduced quarantine rules for those who go on day trips.
The government said this week: “Tourist day trips or leisure activities abroad, such as skiing, are avoidable sources of risk.”
While Austria are opposed to the plans, Ms Merkel has received backing from France and Italy.
Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Mr Conte said: “If Italy decided to shut down all its ski lifts without any support from France, Austria and other countries, then Italian tourists would risk going abroad and taking the contagion back home.”
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Mr Macron has already announced their ski resorts will remain shut until the New Year.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said he wanted to see the coronavirus rules for ski resorts “harmonised at European level at much as possible”.
Although Ms Merkel is seeking a Europe-wide closure of ski resorts, Switzerland has already reopened some and more are expected to follow.
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said: “In Switzerland, we can go skiing, with protection plans in place.”
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He added the government would re-examine the situation before the Christmas holidays and the federal government can step in if it deems the situation unsafe.
Markus Berger, from Switzerland Tourism, lashed out at the efforts to close the industry and claim the Swiss had the right approach.
He told DPA: “In Switzerland, the Federal Council, the authorities and the tourism industry are convinced that the Swiss way is right – for the moment – and that the winter season can take place safely.
“The idea of a Europe-wide coordinated season opening of the winter sport destinations was informally discussed in the Alpine countries as early as late summer and was not pursued for being unsuitable.
Switzerland has reopened ski resorts
“We therefore assume that this approach (to stop skiing until January) will no longer be successful either.”
As Switzerland is not part of the European Union, Germany cannot stop the country reopening their resorts.
But Ms Merkel could prevent Germans from travelling there which could have serious impacts for Switzerland.
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Despite claiming their way is the right way, the move to reopen slopes was met with criticism by World Health Organisation COVID-19 envoy David Nabarro.
Mr Nabarro said: “Once infection rates sink, and they will sink, then we can be as free as we want.
“But right now? Should ski resorts open? Under what conditions?”