Europe's week: Summer dreams, Brexit bust-ups and Hungary under fire

Virus Outbreak Europe Tourism
Virus Outbreak Europe Tourism Copyright Manu Fernandez/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By Stefan Grobe, Joanna Gill
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Our Brussels bureau looks back at this week's key stories.


After weeks of lockdown, many Europeans are dreaming of their ideal getaway, and the EU wants to help. Spoiler: don't pack the suncream just yet.

The European Commission made proposals for a gradual reopening of borders and tourist destinations, both to help those keen to get away, and also to save the millions of jobs in the travel and tourism industries.

While the EU is keen to save our holidays, Vice-President Margrete Vestager made clear this would not be a normal summer. Holidaymakers can expect more news on how each country decides to allow people to cross their borders. 

Among the suggestions for social distancing at your destination: booking slots for pool time - essentially, avoiding the great poolside towel battle between UK holidaymakers and their European counterparts.

Brexit's back

Speaking of EU-UK relations. This week saw several bumps in the road. The EU Commission opened infringement proceedings against the UK for failing to comply with free movement rules. The UK, meanwhile, said the EU was at risk of breaching the terms of the Brexit agreement over British expats registering to stay in the EU.

In the meantime, another round of talks between Brussels and London on future trade relations proved largely fruitless. With both EU and UK chief negotiators lamenting the lack of progress in key areas.

Law and disorder

It is not only rising economic inequality that risks being a feature of our societies. There is also the danger that people across Europe will be treated differently before the law.

This week the European Parliament called an urgent discussion on civil rights in Hungary.

The debate came amid a spate of detentions in Hungary under the country's emergency law, which introduced potential prison sentences for people who the government thinks spread false information about COVID-19.

People like one member of an opposition party who had posted on Facebook about hospital beds being emptied on government orders.

Brussels sees the right to freedom of expression under attack.

"The criminalisation of stating or spreading false information related to the crisis is not clearly defined and is accompanied by strict sanctions," Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for values and transparency told MEPs. 

"This raises potential concerns as regards legal certainty and may have a chilling effect on freedom of expression."

And finally...

Masks are becoming mandatory in public spaces across Europe, but in Iceland, they've decided to do things a little differently.

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