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Baltics open Europe's first 'travel bubble' as curbs ease

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics - Duration: 02:20s - Published
Baltics open Europe's first 'travel bubble' as curbs ease

Baltics open Europe's first 'travel bubble' as curbs ease

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia opened their common borders at the stroke of midnight, creating the first "travel bubble" within the European Union in a bid to jump-start economies broken down by the coronavirus pandemic.

Soraya Ali reports.

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Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have opened their common borders and created the European Union’s first "travel bubble"in a bid to jump-start economies.

Citizens and residents of the three generally sparsely populated Baltic nations are now free to travel within the region, though anyone entering from outside must self-isolate for 14 days.

Lithuanian and Estonian foreign ministers drove to Riga in Latvia on Friday (May 15) to sign a three-way memorandum on running the travel zone together.

But no hands were shaken, the ministers sat almost 2 meters apart and signed three separate copies of the document.

The Baltics open up as the EU seeks to coax the 27 member states to reopen internal borders and restart wider travel -- albeit with safety measures such as requiring people to wear face masks on planes.

So why start with the Baltics?

Well, new infections in the three countries have slowed to a trickle with none reporting more than a dozen new cases on Thursday (May 14).

Authorities have loosened lockdowns since late April.

The region has recorded fewer than 150 deaths from the disease - far lower than larger euro zone countries like Italy, Spain, or France.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are also the three poorest members of the euro zone and expect their economies to shrink by 7-8% this year, in line with the rest of the currency union.

Lithuania has warned of a "double digit" drop if economies are not reopened by the summer.

The Baltic countries were quick to close their borders and impose lockdowns.

Elsewhere in the region, travel restrictions were eased this week between Finland and Estonia, as well as between Poland and Lithuania -- but only for those on the move for business or education.

But neither Poland nor Finland is rushing join the full "travel union" with their Baltic neighbors, despite an invitation to do so.

Poland and Finland have also reported relatively low numbers of infections and deaths.

The Estonian foreign minister said the bubble should be looking at countries with a stable infection rate -- and not only those nearby.




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Baltics open Europe's first pandemic 'travel bubble' as curbs ease

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