Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte does not want Christmas to be celebrated on the Italian ski slopes. In order to avoid diverting to the ski resorts in neighboring countries, he calls for a coordinated European approach to the winter sports holiday.
“Ski holidays are uncontrollable in every way,” said the Italian government leader on Italian television on Monday. He is determined to avoid a repeat of this spring’s scenario. Many important COVID-19 clusters in Europe could then be returned to the slopes and après ski bars in South Tyrol. (But also in Austrian ski areas). Conte said without hesitation that there will be no skiing in the Italian Alps this Christmas holiday, “otherwise we will have a third wave”.
That is why he says he is negotiating a coordinated approach with other European countries. On Tuesday, he indicated on Twitter that he had discussed “the European coordination of COVID-19 measures during the Christmas holidays” with committee chairman Ursula von der Leyen.
Local authorities are putting pressure on the Italian prime minister. “If the pistes are to remain closed, that commandment must apply to all of Europe,” said the governor of the Veneto Alpine region in the newspaper La Repubblica. “It would be an unacceptable joke to close the slopes in Veneto while people are happily skiing on the other side of the mountain.” He added that a season without winter sports is suicide for mountain regions.
The governor of Liguria, another northern Italian region, says on Facebook that closing ski resorts in his province alone would “jeopardize 120,000 jobs”.
France supports, Austria is obstructive
France follows the Italian reasoning. “There is no way that the ski resorts in France will be open to ski enthusiasts during the Christmas holidays,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening. Austria, on the other hand, seems to be keen on a Christmas holiday with winter sports.
“The tourism industry in Austria is winter sports,” said Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel in a press release. “If the EU really wants a general shutdown, they have to pay for it.” According to the Austrian treasurer, his country would lose around 2.4 billion euros in revenue due to a ban on winter sports during the Christmas holidays. He proposes that in that case the EU reimburses 80 percent afterwards.
The Italian government is very anxious to relax measures. After a relatively quiet summer, the corona figures in the southern country are once again soaring. Yesterday, 630 Italians died from COVID-19, bringing the total death toll to 50,000 dead.