Berlin – Germans with holiday homes in Mallorca are clamouring to return to the sun-soaked island as the coronavirus lockdowns ease, but Spanish authorities are pushing back.
Several hundred Germans have in recent weeks sent pleading, sometimes angry letters to the regional government of the Balearic Islands asking them to allow foreign property owners to return to their second homes.
The campaign was started by German national and Mallorca resident Ralf Becker, 55, who believes the travel restrictions aimed at halting the pandemic are “completely over the top”.
“Tourists have to come to Mallorca this year, or else the island will be poorer. Almost everything here depends on tourism,” he told the weekly Der Spiegel in late April.
The protesters have warned that keeping them away from their properties could make them think twice about their investments on the island.
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Mallorca has long been one of the most popular destinations for Germans abroad, so much so that it is sometimes jokingly referred to as Germany’s “17th state”.
Some 4.5 million Germans visited Mallorca last year to enjoy its idyllic beaches and bustling nightlife.
– 14-day quarantine –
But the Spanish government is refusing to budge, wary of moving too quickly as it cautiously relaxes lockdown measures in one of Europe’s worst-affected countries.
To limit the risk of a second wave of infections, Madrid has limited air and sea arrivals to Spanish nationals and permanent residents only, as well as people in certain professions.
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All international arrivals also have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The quarantine measure is expected to stay in place for the duration of Spain’s state of emergency, which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez aims to extend until late June.
The new rule deals another blow to the country’s battered tourism sector, and to second-home owners itching to get back to their place in the sun.
The question of when foreigners can start to return “is one we ask ourselves every day”, Francina Armengol, the regional president of the Balearic Islands, told reporters on Thursday.
She said she hoped that some tourists could return “in a controlled way” in July, as well as those who owned holiday dwellings.
“But unfortunately I can’t give any guarantees,” she added.
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Lufthansa’s budget airline Eurowings this month resumed flights between Dusseldorf and Palma de Mallorca, but with services running “at less than 10 percent” of the usual capacity, it said.
The passengers so far have been mainly residents, business people and those with urgent reasons for travel, according to Eurowings.
– ‘Not an amusement park’ –
German lawmaker Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, from the liberal Free Democrats party, shared the frustration felt by German second-home owners as they face an uncertain wait.
“The many EU citizens who have for years paid property taxes in the Balearic Islands should be treated differently from those who are only popping in as tourists,” he said.
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But on Mallorca, some long-time German residents have taken a different view.
“I’m embarrassed to be German when I read what’s in these letters. What right do they have to demand special treatment?” wrote a female reader in the Mallorca Zeitung, a German-language newspaper published on the island.
German national Alice Weber, a local politician with the left-leaning Mes per Mallorca coalition, was equally scathing.
The Balearic Islands are not “an amusement park” for investors, she fumed in an online video.
“What is a luxury fantasy land to you, is a home to many children who have to stay indoors at the moment but who, unlike you, understand they can’t go to their playground right now.”
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By David Courbet with Daniel Bosque in Barcelona and Mathieu Gorse in Madrid