Spain wants common EU rules on cross-border movement as pandemic lockdowns ease

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain on Tuesday urged its European Union partners to set up common rules, including potential health checks for passengers, to open up borders and reestablish freedom of travel as national coronavirus lockdowns are phased out.

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The government also declared a 10-day official mourning period from Wednesday to honour the country’s dead from the coronavirus pandemic.

Flags will fly at half-mast on all public buildings and naval ships. The mourning period will end with a ceremony led by the head of state, King Felipe, in remembrance of the dead.

Spain has recorded 26,834 fatalities from the coronavirus, one of the world’s highest tolls. It has had 235,400 confirmed cases and is just emerging from a strict national lockdown imposed in mid-March.

On Monday, the government urged foreign holidaymakers to return from July in a bid to restart the tourist industry, a vital source of revenue.

Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez said on Cadena Ser radio station that even though EU countries have set different dates for reopening internal and external borders, they must agree on common measures for all the 26-country Schengen Area.

In a discussion paper submitted by Spain to a consultation process between EU states, Madrid called for the monitoring of tourists’ health via individual checks as part of a common EU-wide procedure.

“The definition of a safe and operational passenger transit system is key to restoring the normality of tourist flows in a sustainable manner,” the document read.

A diplomatic source told Reuters that one option being considered was to test passengers for coronavirus before boarding flights.

Kick-starting tourism before the end of summer will be crucial to reanimating the flagging economy, which the Bank of Spain predicts could contract by as much as 12.4% this year.

In an effort to minimize debt taken on to fight the crisis, Spain will seek the maximum amount in grants from EU coronavirus funds, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said.

The European Commission will propose on Wednesday its blueprint for the bloc’s budget, including plans for a coronavirus recovery fund.

“We’ll keep fighting for the funds to be significant. We want them to be available as transfers, not as loans,” Montero said.

Reporting by Inti Landauro and Belen Carreno; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Nathan Allen