Friday, 17 June 2016 08:54

The legal framework of tourism in the European Union

The legal framework of tourism in the European Union
Evanthia Kardoulia

There was no provision for EU tourism policy in the Treaty of Rome, which was signed on the 25th of March 1957. The article 2 of the Treaty of Rome assigned to the European Community the task of promoting closer relations between the States which belong to it. Tourism can assist the Community to achieve this goal by bringing the people of Europe into contact. Tourism is also an important economic activity in the spirit of article 2 of the above-mentioned Treaty. Decisions of the Council related to tourism must be based on article 235 of the Treaty, according to which the Council shall take the appropriate measures if action should prove necessary and the Treaty has not provided for the necessary power.

The European Commission, recognising the important role of tourism in the European economy, has been increasingly involved in tourism since the early 1980's, in co-operation with the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. An important step forward was taken with the establishment of the Tourism Advisory Committee in 1986, the role of which was to facilitate exchange of information, consultation and co-operation on tourism. Another important step to emphasise the role of tourism and to develop a coherent policy approach was the decision of the Council of Ministers to declare the year 1990 "The European Year of Tourism". The aim of the above-mentioned Action Plan was to support information, exchange and co-ordination (so-called horizontal measures) and single parts of the tourism industry (so-called sector measures).

Tourism was not mentioned in any legislative text since the Treaty of Maastricht, which was signed on the 7th of February 1992, and provided in article 3 that: “For the purposes set out in Article 2 of the Treaty, the activities of the Community shall include, as provided in the Treaty, and in accordance with the timetable set out therein: … (t) measures in the sphere of energy, civil protection and tourism”.

The next step was a Green Paper on the Role of the Union in the field of tourism, which was adopted in April 1995, and included four options: a) no European tourism policy; b) continuing at the existing level; c) further development at the existing legal basis; and d) development of an independent tourism policy. The debate about the Green Paper was completed by a European Forum on Tourism in December 1995, but there was no clear decision on the option to be followed.

Following its 1995 Green Paper on the Role of the Union in the field of tourism, in order to stimulate a debate on the Union's role in tourism, the European Commission adopted in April 1996 a Proposal for a Council Decision on a First Multiannual Programme to assistEuropean Tourism, known as "Philoxenia". A revised version was presented by the Commission in December 1996 taking into account amendments put forward by the European Parliament. The Council of Ministers has not been able to reach a unanimous agreement on the proposed programme. Whereas the Commissions' proposal received the favourable opinion of the other European institutions, the Commission formally withdrew its proposal in April 2000.

The Amsterdam Treaty, which was signed on the 2nd of October 1997, did not amend the European Community Treaty, by adding - for instance - a new chapter or article relevant to tourism. The Lisbon Treaty, which was signed on the 13th of December 2007, changed the legal framework of the Union, amended its working methods and defined new and more comprehensive powers. For the first time, tourism was mentioned in a Treaty among the policy responsibilities of the Union’s institutions. Articles 6 (d) and 195 of the Lisbon Treaty attributed a new competence for the European Union to the tourism sector and changed the institutional context for the European tourism.

On the 28th of April 1999, the Commission published a Communication to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled “Enhancing Tourism’s Potential for Employment”. This Communication, together with the conclusions and recommendations of the High Level Group on Tourism and Employment, which took place in 1998, responded to the request of the Council of Ministers to focus on the link between tourism and employment.

The next Community activities directly targeting the tourism sector were:

  • A Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on “Working together for the future of European tourism” (COM (2001) 665);
  • A Commission’s Report on Community measures affecting tourism, which were undertaken in 2001 and 2002 (SEC (2004) 24);
  • A Communication from the Commission on “Basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism” (COM (2003) 71 final);
  • A Communication from the Commission on “A renewed Tourism Policy: Towards a stronger partnership for European Tourism” (COM (2006) 134 final);
  • A Communication from the Commission on an “Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism” (COM (2007) 621 final).

On the 30th of July 2010 the Commission published a Communication on “Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe” (COM (2010) 352 final), through which the Commission intended to encourage a coordinated approach for initiatives linked to tourism and define a new framework for action to increase its competitiveness and its capacity for sustainable growth. It therefore proposed a number of European or multinational initiatives aimed at achieving these objectives, drawing in full on the Union's competence in the field of tourism as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.

Furthermore, the Commission adopted on the 7th of November 2012 an important step in the area of visa policy: the Communication on the implementation and development of a common visa policy to spur growth in the EU (COM (2012) 649 final). Lastly, the Commission adopted on the 20th of February 2014 a Communication on a European Strategy for more Growth and Jobs in Coastal and Maritime Tourism (COM (2014) 86 final).

Among the projects that initiated Community action in support of European tourism, was EDEN (EDEN is the acronym for European Destinations of Excellence), which refers to a pilot project promoting sustainable tourism development models across the European Union. The project is based on national competitions that take place every year and results in the selection of a tourist “destination of excellence” for each participating country. Through the selection of destinations, EDEN effectively achieves the objective of drawing attention to the values, diversity and common features of European tourist destinations. It enhances the visibility of emerging European destinations, creates a platform for sharing good practices across Europe and promotes networking between awarded destinations.

Another project was Calypso, an initiative which helps disadvantaged people go on holidays while - at the same time - increases tourism in the low season. It works by promoting exchanges between different countries. Calypso seeks to support four groups: a) underprivileged young adults (aged 18-30); b) families facing financial or other pressures; c) people with disabilities; and d) people over sixty-five and pensioners who cannot afford travel.

In addition, the European Union co-funded projects on transnational thematic tourism products contributing to a more sustainable tourism (e.g. cultural routes crossing several countries on different topics, cycling paths, eco-tourism products, sports tourism, gastronomic tourism, health and wellbeing tourism, nature tourism, historical, religious-pilgrim tourism, agro-tourism, rural tourism, industrial heritage etc.).

The last initiative presented herein is the “50.000 Tourists” Initiative, according to which the Commission works with governments, the industry and airlines to develop tourist flows between the EU and the rest of the world by using spare airline and hotel capacity during low season.

Written by the special scientist, Mrs. Evanthia Kardoulia, Attorney at Law - Ph.D. Candidate in Tourism Law - Legal Assistant at the European Court of Human Rights.