Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria hope to open their common borders and to create a so-called “little Schengen” travel zone between the three countries by July in a joint effort to revive the tourism sector, highly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“If some kind of little Schengen is created, it may be here”, said Martin Klus, the state secretary at the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry, in a recent interview with local media. “I’m optimist that it can happen within two months”, he added.
This may however be dependent on how the rate of infections evolves in the Czech Republic and Austria.
“The sooner other countries are doing as well as we are, the sooner we can open borders”, confirmed Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič, adding that the rate of infections in the neighbouring countries is currently about ten times higher than in Slovakia.
“We are continuing negotiations with Austrians and Slovaks”, stated the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček in a blog post.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia were among the first countries in the EU to completely close its borders and are now widely praised for their handling of the crisis. Slovakia has the least per-capita coronavirus-related deaths in Europe.
According to a leaked draft seen by Euractiv, the European commission is expected to recommend a three-phase approach in which European countries will be advised to open borders to countries with similar coronavirus-risk profiles.
Last week, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania decided to open their common borders and to abolish the entry ban for non-essential purposes as of May 15. The decision however came upon an assertation that the level of infections was similar in all three Baltic states.
A similar idea of a travel zone is currently being discussed by Greece, Cyprus and Israel, which are considering setting up a “corona corridor”.