Jean-Claude Juncker’s hailing of Europe’s economic recovery came in terms that would have been unimaginable at the height of the eurozone debt crisis in 2010. Back then, the focus of concern was on a handful of countries that ultimately required bailouts – Greece, Portugal and Ireland – or hovered on the edge of needing rescue, in the case of Spain and Italy. Here is the current state of play with those countries’ economies.
As it leaves behind the painful memory of its €78bn bailout in 2011, Portugal is on the brink of the fastest economic expansion for two decades. For the centre-left government of prime minister António Costa, economic success came after relinquishing the austerity straitjacket imposed by the EU and International Monetary Fund between 2011 and 2014. Public sector wages and pensions have been restored to pre-crisis levels but the government is likely to face future conflict with the EU, as Brussels seeks action to reduce Portugal’s debts.
Despite the storm clouds of Brexit on the horizon, the Bank of Ireland continues to forecast growth for the Irish economy, albeit at a lower rate. Under the bonnet, however, not everyone is convinced by this growth story. The centre-right former prime minister Enda Kenny was voted out of office this year because not enough voters sensed a recovery. A growth spurt of 26% in 2015 was branded “leprechaun economics”: large multinationals seeking to protect their profits moved intellectual property into Ireland, with no change in the real economy. Ireland’s exchequer remains highly dependent on a few large companies, leaving the economy in a vulnerable position.
Take a snapshot of Greece and it might appear the economy is on the mend: factories are expanding production, people are finding jobs. But a closer look reveals the country is scarred by the economic crisis that saw its economy contract by 25%. More than a fifth of working-age adults and 45% of young people are out of work. Greece’s colossal debt burden weighs on the economy, while creditors’ demands for high budget surpluses are deemed unrealistic by many economists. Despite hopes of light at the end of the austerity tunnel, true recovery looks set to remain elusive.
Spain is one of the brightest spots in the eurozone: in July 2017 the bloc’s fourth-largest economy returned to its pre-crisis size. Unemployment is falling rapidly, although at 17% it remains high. Some economists cite Spain as a model for France, after the centre-right prime minister Mariano Rajoy introduced reforms that made it easier to fire workers (seen as a stimulus for hiring by some experts). But Spain still has the highest unemployment rate in Europe barring Greece. Inequality has risen and wage growth remains depressed.
The eurozone’s third-largest economy is benefiting from the upswing across the continent, but concerns have not disappeared. In Italy, unemployment is falling and factories are stepping up production, thanks to stronger demand. Meanwhile, the bailout of Italy’s oldest bank and the rescue of two lenders has boosted confidence. The economy, however, is still weighed down by bad debts: the total of non-performing loans amounts to €174bn (£153bn), according to Bloomberg. A bigger question is whether Italy, facing elections in 2018, can forge a political consensus to undertake long-sought reforms, such as improving productivity, reducing debts and increasing funds for universities.
More than 22,500 migrants have reportedly died or disappeared globally since 2014 – more than half of them perishing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, according to a study by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
A clampdown on Europe’s eastern borders has forced migrants to choose more dangerous routes as the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to rise despite a drop in the overall number of arrivals, data compiled by the UN refugee agency shows.
“While overall numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean by the eastern route were reduced significantly in 2016 by the EU-Turkey deal, death rates have increased to 2.1 per 100 in 2017, relative to 1.2 in 2016,” reads the IOM report which is released on Monday. “Part of this rise is due to the greater proportion of migrants now taking the most dangerous route – that across the central Mediterranean – such that 1 in 49 migrants now died on this route in 2016.”
Since 2014, more deaths have been documented on this route than any other migration route in the world. In the first half of this year, the IOM said at least 3,110 migrants have died or disappeared globally, which is lower than the figure in 2016 (4,348), but the risk of dying has increased in the Mediterranean even though fewer migrants crossed into Europe.
“The central Mediterranean route, ending at Lampedusa or the main island of Sicily, accounts only for about a quarter of almost 1.5 million people who have arrived since 2014 on all routes, but for 88% of all migrant deaths in the Mediterranean,” it said.
Last month, Amnesty International criticised Italy for taking measures to keep migrants away from its shores, which it said leads “in their arbitrary detention in centres where they are at almost certain risk of torture, rape and even of being killed”. The IOM’s report also complained about smugglers in Libya and Italy increasingly using less seaworthy vessels.
Jean-Guy Vataux, head of mission in Libya for Médecins Sans Frontières, told the Guardian nearly all the people rescued from drowning in the Mediterranean have been “exposed to an alarming level of violence and exploitation: kidnap for ransom, forced labour, sexual violence and enforced prostitution, being kept in captivity or detained arbitrarily”.
According to Vataux, the majority of migrants in Libya live clandestinely “under the yoke of smugglers or – for the most unlucky – kidnapping organisations”.
He added: “Migrants going through Libya to reach Europe are facing impossible choices: getting on a boat is very risky, many die before they reach the European coast or a rescue ship. Remaining in Libya, whether in detention centres run by the administration or a criminal organisation, exposes them to unbelievable levels of violence and exploitation. There needs to be other options made available very quickly, like safe passage to other Mediterranean countries.”
Restrictions on the eastern route meant the number of arrivals in countries such as Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia had dramatically dropped. The three countries, which are not a part of the EU border-free Schengen zone, restricted migrants’ access in late 2015.
In the first half of this year, at least seven migrants have died of hypothermia during the winter months in the western Balkans. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recently published a report warning of the dangers in the route. A mother and son who successfully crossed the Evros river – along the border between Turkey and Greece – both later died of hypothermia.
More than 120,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year – most departed from Libya bound for Italy, from Turkey bound for Greece or, more recently, from Morocco bound for Spain. About 82% of all migrants were travelling to Italy from Libya. In June, the Italian coastguard rescued about 5,000 people in one day in the Mediterranean.
The IOM report, titled Fatal Journeys, has been compiled by the Berlin-based Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC). It is the only existing database on migrant deaths at the global level, collected through various means including official records, medical examiners and media reports.
Ann Singleton, senior research fellow at the University of Bristol’s school for policy studies, said: “For the families left behind it could make a real difference if they are able to find more information on their missing relatives. Better data on migrant fatalities can also help inform policies aimed at reducing migrant deaths.”
Global figures for the first half of 2017 show that northern Africa also had high fatalities and disappearances, with at least 225 recorded deaths. The majority of incidents occurred along routes from western Africa and the Horn of Africa towards Libya and Egypt. Sickness or violence are the main cause of death in those cases.
At least 150 deaths were also recorded in the US-Mexico border crossings since January. “Along the border, irregular migrants avoid coming into contact with authorities in well-patrolled areas and are often forced to cross natural hazards such as the desert of Arizona or the fast-running Rio Grande river,” IOM said. More people have died attempting to cross the border compared with last year despite an ease in border apprehensions of migrants.
Recent clampdowns on the Libya-Italy route have also led to the increase in attempts to reach the continent via Morocco. The IOM has said the number of people arriving in Spain by sea this year is likely to outnumber the number arriving in Greece.
Francesca Friz-Prguda, UNHCR representative in Spain, who recently visited the port cities of Tarifa and Algeciras, where refugees are arriving almost daily after crossing the strait of Gibraltar from Morocco, said Spain was underprepared and lacked an integrated national strategy. More than 14,000 migrants have arrived by sea – a 90% increase compared with last year. Arrivals in Andalusian ports have tripled.
“While this is really not an emergency situation if you compare it to Italy, there are no adequate structures and procedures in place to deal even with the current level, let alone with more arrivals,” she said.
“It’s a myth to assume that people arriving here are all economic migrants, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most refugee-producing regions in the world, so even statistically there’s a likelihood that these mixed flows are refugees travelling,” she said. “A lot of media have not dealt with the issue in a very responsible way, talking about avalanches and storms, flood, and God knows what – there’s a clearly a perception which doesn’t seem to sufficiently understand that first there are many refugee-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.”
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is hosting a “major European powers summit” on Libya also attended by three African nations, in an attempt to raise more funds to tackle the migration crisis.
The EU has struggled to agree on a coherent answer to the influx of migrants fleeing war, poverty and political upheaval in the Middle East and Africa, and the crisis is testing cooperation between member states.
The mini-summit in Paris provides a chance for the major European powers to coordinate their Libyan policy after individual countries, especially France and Italy, started to mount separate initiatives to create political unity in Libya.
Macron wants the EU to offer an extra €60m (£55.5m) to help African countries handle asylum seekers who have returned from Europe and to prevent further migration flows.
Over the summer, Macron sought to take the initiative on managing the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, mainly into Italy. He proposed hotspots in Africa to handle asylum requests.
European and African allies questioned the viability of such centres and an official from the Élysée Palace said on Monday the idea was no longer under discussion.
“The hotspots announcement was nonsense and neither Chad nor Niger were consulted beforehand,” a west African official said. “Macron is trying to make up for that mistake.”
Although the number of migrants reaching Italy from Libya by sea dropped by nearly 70% in July and August compared with the same months last year, it is felt the numbers could easily rise again without further measures.
There has been a small increase in flows from Morocco to Spain, a point of concern for the Spanish government dealing with sensitive public opinion in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona earlier this month.
The fall in the number of refugees leaving Libya raises questions about the management of the makeshift camps where those still seeking to reach Europe are being held either before attempting the perilous Mediterranean voyage or after being turned back by the Libyan coastguard.
The Paris summit is expected to propose a stronger role for the UN in the administration of the Libyan detention camps and endorse extra cash for countries such as Niger and Chad from which many of the migrants on the Libyan shoreline originate.
The four European leaders attending the summit are the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and Macron himself. The three African countries taking part are Libya, Niger and Chad.
The UK – despite leading the military engagement that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the subsequent power vacuum – is not among the attendees, a possible sign of Britain’s gradual marginalisation ahead of Brexit.
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, visited Tripoli last week, but the bulk of the diplomatic work on reaching a political solution in Libya has been left to the former colonial power Italy, or to France.
The political crisis in Italy over migration continues, with clashes at the weekend in Rome between migrants and police over living conditions.
The total number of migrants who reached Italy from Africa between January and 23 August this year was 98,072, according to the International Office for Migration (IOM), the UN migration agency, a fall of only 7,000 from the same period last year.
But this small drop masks a collapse of more than 70% in the number of migrants reaching Italy in July and August. The IOM figures show 14,177 African migrants reached Italy by sea in between 1 July and 20 August, compared with 45,000 over the same period last year. The figures for August alone are likely to show a fall of more than 75% on August 2016.
But the IOM estimates the number of people reaching Spain from Africa is starting to increase, exceeding 8,300 by 9 August, higher than the total number of migrants that reached Spain during the whole of 2016.
Although the Italian government is taking some credit for the sudden decline in the number of migrants reaching its shores, the fall appears to precede implementation of its tough measures, which include a restrictive code of conduct for NGO ships patrolling outside Libyan coastal waters, as well as stronger efforts by the Libyan coastguard to turn the smugglers’ rafts back. It is possible that changes in the power dynamics in key Libyan ports had already made it more difficult for the smuggling networks to operate.
The Italian government has been providing help to the political leadership in key ports such as Sabratha, west of Tripoli, and this in turn could be seen as an incentive to local militia to forgo people smuggling in return for western grants.
But the decline in numbers reaching Europe may lead to tens of thousands becoming stranded in camps in north Africa, with little oversight by the weak Libyan government.
The Paris summit will nevertheless welcome the NGO code of conduct, as well as measures by African countries to do more to police migration flows.
In a further sign that European leaders are starting to look at the root cause of the crisis, the Italian interior minister, Marco Minniti, met 14 Libyan mayors for a second time on Saturday to talk to them about their needs, including funds to ensure there were economic alternatives to human trafficking.
The man accused of working with an international crime gang to kidnap a British model and sell her into slavery in an auction on the dark web has been described by Italian police as a fantasist.
Lukasz Pawel Herba, 30, is alleged to have attacked Chloe Ayling when she went to Milan for a photoshoot last month. The 20-year-old told police she was drugged and held against her will. Upon her release six days later, she said she was told a gang called “Black Death” had been behind her abduction.
Herba was arrested after taking Ayling to the British consulate in Milan. He had allegedly planned to sell her for more than £230,000 and demanded a ransom from her agent.
It has been reported that Herba, a Polish national who lives in Britain, handed Ayling a business card advertising the Black Death gang and asked her to publicise the group as he let her go.
Lorenzo Bucossi, a Milan police official, said: “The demands for a ransom were sent from his computer – whether he was operating as part of a group, or made it up, we can’t say.”
Herba’s account to Ayling and the police also appears to have twisted and turned. Officers were quoted by local media as describing him as a “dangerous person with traces of mythomania”.
Despite his reported claim that he belonged to the gang, Herba is also said to have told police he had leukaemia and, desperate for money, came into contact with a group of Romanians in Birmingham, who pressured him into involvement in the kidnapping.
Europol said on Monday it had only one mention of a gang named Black Death on its database, which did not necessarily suggest it existed. A spokesman said the information had been passed to one of Europol’s members, but declined to elaborate.
Police in Italy said they were looking for at least one accomplice, thought to be his brother Mikail Herba, although they would not confirm the identity of that person because the investigation was ongoing.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which is helping with the investigation, indicated that it was not common to see cases of human trafficking organised over the dark web – sites that are not accessible via mainstream browsers and search engines.
The agency does not list dark web auctions of human beings among its primary threats in relation to human trafficking, though it does say that the use of “online marketing of sexual services is becoming increasingly prevalent”.
It also emerged that Ayling was taken shoe shopping during the period she was held captive. Francesco Pesce, her lawyer, said she was under what he described as psychological subjugation and was made to believe that other members of the gang would harm her if she tried to run.
“Chloe told me that she was very scared and wanted to do everything she could to go along with everything in order to make [her captor] release her. It’s understandable, she was scared. I believe she was being brave, she was with a captor and didn’t know what to do. She stayed calm. And now she is safe and with her family,” Pesce told the Guardian.
Ayling’s agent, Phil Green, of Supermodels Agency, said she was being debriefed by the Foreign Office and police on Monday.
“Today, Chloe is unavailable for interview because she is partly doing the debriefing with the Foreign Office and the police, and then would like the rest of the day in privacy with her mum.
“She hasn’t been home 24 hours yet, she has been surrounded by press ever since she arrived, and after her ordeal, they maybe need to respect the fact she does need some time alone.”
He said Ayling had been kept in Italy by local police for weeks after her release.
The NCA said it had carried out a search of a house in Oldbury, in the West Midlands, that was linked to Lukasz Pawel Herba. The agency added: “Computer equipment seized is being forensically examined.”
Spain lacks the resources and capacity to protect the rising number of refugees and migrants reaching it by sea, the UN refugee agency has said.
The warning from UNHCR comes as the Spanish coastguard said it rescued 593 people in a day from 15 small paddle boats, including 35 children and a baby, after they attempted to cross the seven-mile Strait of Gibraltar.
The number of refugees and migrants risking the sea journey between Morocco and Spain has been rising sharply, with the one-day figure the largest since August 2014, when about 1,300 people landed on the Spanish coast in a 24-hour period.
About 9,300 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea so far this year, while a further 3,500 have made it to two Spanish enclaves in north Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, the EU’s only land borders with Africa.
María Jesús Vega, a spokeswoman for UNHCR Spain, said police were badly under-resourced and there was a lack of interpreters and a shortage of accommodation for the new arrivals.
“The state isn’t prepared and there aren’t even the resources and the means to deal with the usual flow of people arriving by sea,” she said.
“Given the current rise, we’re seeing an overflow situation when it comes to local authorities trying to cope at arrival points.”
Vega said the agency was seeing a very high number of vulnerable people including women, victims of people-trafficking, and children.
“What we’re asking is for there to be the right mechanisms in place to ensure people are treated with dignity when they come,” she said.
Last week, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said Spain could become more popular than Greece as a destination for people seeking to enter Europe, as some look for alternatives to Italy.
About 12,440 people have arrived in Greece so far in 2017, according to UNHCR. The numbers heading to Spain and Greece are dwarfed by Italy, which has seen 97,376 arrivals so far this year. Although this is a reduction on the 101,512 people who arrived during the same period in 2016, the issue continues to cause problems for the authorities, with almost 5,000 people reaching Italy on one day in June.
William Spindler, a spokesman for UNHCR in Geneva, said: “There have been three main routes into Europe for many years, for decades: the central Mediterranean one, the eastern one from Turkey to Greece, and there has always been Spain.
“What is true is that when efforts are made to clamp down on one route, another tends to open up.”
UNHCR figures show that most of those arriving in Spain by sea set out from Morocco, although some also embark from Algeria. The majority of the migrants are from Cameroon, Guinea and the Gambia.
She said the agency had noticed an increase in the number of Moroccans travelling to Spain, coinciding with the end of Ramadan and unrest in the Rif region.
Although Vega stressed that the situation in Spain was hardly comparable with Italy, she said Madrid needed to do much more.
“This could be managed quite simply if it were properly addressed,” she said.
“[But] if there isn’t a proper response, we could see people who have fallen into the clutches of people-traffickers becoming merchandise. We’re going to see people who should have international protection facing danger if they’re returned home.”
Statistics compiled by the IOM show that more than 113,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea this year. To date, more than 2,300 have died in the attempt, 119 of them while trying to reach Spain.
Marco Minniti, the Italian interior minister, has insisted that NGOs involved in sea rescues sign a code of conduct, which was sharply criticised by the UN-backed IOM.
Several aid groups refused to sign the code of conduct because they thought their neutrality would be compromised by taking armed police officers on board. At least three organisations signed it.
The Italian government remains under pressure, as neighbouring countries have tightened border controls, meaning refugees and migrants are unable to head north to France or Austria as they have done in the past.
On Wednesday, 70 Austrian troops were deployed to the Brenner pass to help police with border checks, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
UNHCR said it was too soon to tell whether the recent drop in arrivals in Italy represented a downward trend or a temporary fluctuation.
Under pressure from the EU, the Libyan coastguard has stepped up interceptions of boats, while some NGOs have suspended work in the central Mediterranean because they felt threatened by Libya’s coastguard.
Both could explain the recent fall in sea crossings, but Spindler said: “We don’t have any hard evidence. We could see an increase in the next few weeks.”
Vega said the international community needed to do more to tackle the root causes of migration, such as conflict, climate change and economic instability, to reduce numbers.
“It’s clear that walls and fences aren’t going to deter anyone who’s desperate enough to risk their life and those of their children. Whatever lies ahead of them, it can’t be worse than what they’re leaving behind. They know they could die,” she said.
The Spanish government did not respond to a request for comment.
August has seen holiday dreams turn into nightmares across much of Europe by a combination of a heatwave so bad it has been named after the devil, protests against tourists, and airports transformed into overcrowded traps.
High temperatures have claimed lives in Italy and Romania, and across the continent there has been a rise in hospital admissions, concern about wildfires and a threat of water and power shortages.
From Kiev to Rome, people were spotted jumping into public fountains to beat the heat, even defying new fines in the Italian capital in a bid to cool off. Across the country hospital admissions have leapt 15% and at least three people have died as a result of extreme weather, leading Italians to brand the hot spell Lucifero. Authorities in several countries have brought in temporary restrictions on working hours and traffic as the mercury climbed above 40C, and people have been urged to stay inside and avoid alcohol. In Belgrade, a public health institute said householders without air conditioning should put wet towels over their windows.
The heat is so intense that it buckled train tracks in Serbia, adding to travel chaos, and largely alpine Slovenia reported its first “tropical night”, with temperatures that never dipped below 20C even at 1,500 metres above sea level.
The misery was intensified by chaos at several airports, particularly Barcelona’s, where a combination of stronger EU border controls and a strike left both Spaniards and tourists queuing for hours. Some travellers waited so long they missed their flights.
And in a further blow to tourism, some disgruntled locals in regions where holidaymakers are an economic mainstay have turned against an industry they say now brings more harm than good to their communities. “Tourism-phobia: the worst message at the worst time,” Spain’s El Mundo said in an editorial.
Only weeks after thousands of Venetians took to the streets for a peaceful demonstration against mass tourism, activists in Spain launched a more violent protest. Anti-tourism group Arran vandalised tourist bikes and a bus in Barcelona, slashing tyres and daubing slogans on the bus windows. In Palma de Mallorca, members of the same group burst into restaurants and boarded boats in the harbour with flares, carrying banners saying “tourism is killing Mallorca”. There have also been protests in Valencia, and one has been called in the Basque city of San Sebastián.
The Spanish tourism minister, Álvaro Nadal, has warned against “tourism-phobia”, saying that Spain “can’t allow itself to be perceived as a country that is hostile to tourists”. After a decade of misery, the country’s economy has finally returned to pre-crisis size, and an attack on tourism threatens one of the most lucrative strands of its income.
Europe had already been hit by drought and an extended July heat wave, contributing to wildfires in Portugal that killed 60. The return of high temperatures has stirred memories of Europe’s disastrous summer of 2003, when intense heat caused 15,000 extra deaths.
At least four deaths have been linked to the heat wave so far: two pensioners killed in wildfires in Italy and two Romanians who died from heat-related conditions. And the economic impact will last long after the heat fades, with olive oil production in Italy expected to be down by nearly a third, and vineyards also affected.
Researchers warned however that last week’s misery may become routine, with a report in speciality journal the Lancet Planetary Health warning that by the end of the century heat waves in Europe could cause 50 times more deaths than at present. There could be as many as 151,500 “heat-related fatalities” each year, compared with an average of 2,700 annually in the 30 years to 2010.
Adding to the misery of sweltering locals and visitors, airports were struggling to cope with high numbers of travellers and new security rules on one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Changes made in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks demand more checks on passengers from countries outside the 26-nation Schengen border-free zone, which includes the UK. Many airports have struggled to cope, and in Barcelona’s main hub a strike has exacerbated travellers’ misery.
Despite heeding advice to arrive early, several passengers said they nearly missed their flights. Luke Hansell, flying to Birmingham with his mother, said he arrived four hours early after reading warnings in news reports, then spent 90 minutes in the security queue.
After the failure of mediation, more hour-long strikes by the staff who operate scanners, search passengers and control the queues at the airport resume on Sunday. Others are scheduled for Monday, Friday and next Sunday.
Eleven southern and central European countries have issued extreme heat warnings amid a brutal heatwave nicknamed Lucifer, with residents and tourists urged to take precautions and scientists warning worse could be still to come.
As temperatures in many places hit or exceeded 40C (104F) in the region’s most sustained heatwave since 2003, emergency services are being put on standby and people have been asked to “remain vigilant”, stay indoors, avoid long journeys, drink enough fluids and listen for emergency advice from health officials.
At least two people have died from the heat, one in Romania and one in Poland, and many more taken to hospital suffering from sunstroke and other heat-related conditions. Italy said its hospitalisation rate was 15% above normal and asked people in affected regions only to travel if their journey was essential. Polish officials warned of possible infrastructure failures.
A spokeswoman for Abta, the UK travel trade organisation, reinforced the advice for holidaymakers, saying they should take sensible precautions, keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and follow any advice issued by health authorities in specific destinations.
The highest temperature on Thursday was 42C in Cordoba, Spain, and Catania, Italy. Split in Croatia also hit 42.3C on Wednesday. The spell is forecast to peak at the weekend with temperatures of 46C or higher in Italy and parts of the Balkans.
Authorities in Italy, which is suffering its worst drought in 60 years, have placed 26 cities on the maximum extreme heat alert, including Venice and Rome. Many of Rome’s fountains have been turned off, and last week the city only narrowly averted drastic water rationing.
In Florence, the Uffizi art gallery was temporarily closed on Friday when the air-conditioning system broke down. In Hungary, keepers at Budapest zoo cooled down two overheating polar bears with huge ice blocks.
Temperatures along parts of Croatia’s Adriatic coast, including Dubrovnik, were expected to hit 42C during the day. In the Serbian capital of Belgrade there were reports of people fainting from heat exhaustion.
Highs in Spain, including in popular holiday resorts on the Costa del Sol and on the island of Majorca, are set to reach 43C this weekend, with extreme conditions also forecast in Seville, Malaga and Granada. Ibiza and Mallorca could hit 42C, Spain’s Aemet meteorological service warned.
While Europe’s record high is 48C, set in Athens in 1977, current temperatures are in many places as much as 10-15C higher than normal for the time of year and likely to result in more fatalities, experts have said.
Europe’s record-breaking 2003 heatwave resulted in more than 20,000 heat-related deaths, mainly of old and vulnerable people, including 15,000 in France, where temporary mortuaries were set up in refrigerated lorries.
Such spells of extreme heat in southern Europe could be a foretaste of things to come. French researchers last month predicted summer conditions in some of the continent’s popular tourist destinations could become significantly tougher.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists said if a similar “mega-heatwave” to that of 2003 were to occur at the end of the century, when average temperatures are widely expected to be noticeably higher after decades of global warming, temperatures could pass 50C.
The researchers noted that climate models suggest “human influence is expected to significantly increase the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves in Europe” and said their modelling suggested that by 2100, peak summer temperatures could rise by between 6C and 13C against historical records.
The village of Conqueyrac in the Gard department of France hit 44.1C on two occasions in the summer of 2003, the highest temperature ever recorded in the country, meaning “the record maximum value could easily exceed 50C by the end of the 21st century”, the scientists concluded.
About 300 firefighters and military personnel were fighting 75 wildfires on Friday in Albania, with firefighters also busy in Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia, Greece and the French island of Corsica.
In Italy, fires killed a 79-year-old woman in the central Abruzzo region and forced the closure of the main Via Aurelia coastal motorway that runs northwards from Rome to the Italian Riviera.
The country’s winemakers have started harvesting their grapes weeks earlier than usual due to the heat. The founder of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini, said no harvest in living memory had begun before 15 August.
The heatwave is likely to cost Italy’s agricultural sector billions of euros, with as many as 11 regions facing critical water shortages. Olive yields in some areas are forecast to be down 50% and some milk production has fallen by up to 30%.
Bosnian officials said the heatwave and drought had nearly halved agricultural output, which represents 10% of the country’s economic output, and Serbia said its corn production could be cut a third.
Not all tourists count getting drunk before noon and desecrating a local monument or two as top priority for a break away, but those that do have come to represent the masses in the cities where they let loose.
And last week, in Barcelona, vigilantes slashed the tyres of an open-top bus and spray-painted across its windscreen “El Turisme Mata Els Barris”: Catalan for “Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods.”
The message is clear: these cities are buckling under pressure. What to do about it is less obvious. In tourists and residents’ battle for supremacy of shared spaces, local authorities are uncomfortably in the middle. The tourism and travel sector is one of the largest employers in the world, with one new job created for every 30 new visitors to a destination – but at what cost to locals’ quality of life?
Xavier Font, a professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey, says cities tend to ask that question when it is already too late. “You cannot wait until tourists arrive to give them a code of conduct.”
It won’t work, anyway. Attempts to influence individuals’ behaviour are futile, even counterproductive, says Font. “That attitude of ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ doesn’t just apply to Vegas anymore. When we go on holiday, we’re selfish.”
As a consultant for national tourism boards, industry associations and businesses, Font asks not how do we change tourists’ behaviour, but how do we change tourism so as to manage its impact. If it is to be made better, more sustainable, less of a burden on cities and the people who live in them year-round, the work should have begun well before visitors have bought their tickets.
The World Economic Forum recorded 1.2 billion international arrivals last year – 46 million more than in 2015, and increases are predicted for the coming decade, prompting the UN to designate 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. More people are travelling than ever before, and lower barriers to entry and falling costs means they are doing so for shorter periods.
The rise of “city breaks” – 48-hour bursts of foreign cultures, easier on the pocket and annual leave balance – has increased tourist numbers, but not their geographic spread. The same attractions have been used to market cities such as Paris, Barcelona and Venice for decades, and visitors use the same infrastructure as residents to reach them. “Too many people do the same thing at the exact same time,” says Font. “For locals, the city no longer belongs to them.”
Compounding the problem is Airbnb, which, like credit cards and mobile roaming, has made tourists more casual in their approach to international travel, but added to residents’ headaches. Landlords stand to earn more from renting their properties to tourists than they do to permanent tenants. Those who share their apartment blocks with Airbnb hosts have been incredulous, says Font: “‘No longer do we have to share the streets with tourists, we have to share our own buildings?’ We get residents saying, ‘I don’t want my neighbourhood to become like the city centre.’”
In Barcelona, Font’s home city, the council has Airbnb in the sights of its crackdown on unlicensed holiday rentals, and doubled its team of inspectors to 40 in June. Over the 25 years since it hosted the 1992 Olympic Games, the city has experienced steady growth in tourist numbers, to an estimated annual total of 30 million. Its cruise port is the busiest in Europe; its airport, the second-fastest growing.
Consequentially, it has become the poster city for how a place can “groan under the weight of its popularity”, as Font puts it. He was commissioned by the city of Barcelona to explore how it might best promote sustainable development, and his findings – published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism in April – have been incorporated in part into its 2020 strategic plan.
It shows that Barcelona has moved past the point of simply complaining about its troubles with tourists, says Font, and is “starting to do something about it”. One course of action is widening what the city calls the “tourism spectrum … to diversify the image and practices of visitors to the city”.
Currently, tourists’ “intensity and volume” is very unequally dispersed; it is hoped that a greater range of them, with different motives, priorities and interests, will ease the congestion around the main attractions.
This starts with marketing, says Font, who notes that Amsterdam has started advising visitors to seek accommodation outside of the city centre on its official website. “That takes some balls, really, to do that. But only so many people will look at the website, and it means they can say to their residents they’re doing all they can [to ease congestion].”
Another beleaguered city, Venice, has employed a similar strategy as part of #EnjoyRespectVenezia, a new campaign launched last month following a protest against the tourism industry by 2,000 residents. Translated into 10 languages, it publicises fines of up to €500 for picnicking in public, swimming in canals, even lingering too long on bridges.
But it also proposes a better way it is calling “detourism”: sustainable travel tips and alternative itineraries for exploring an authentic Venice, off the paths beaten by the 28 million visitors who flock there each year.
A greater variety of guidance for prospective visitors – ideas for what to do in off-peak seasons, for example, or outside of the city centre – can have the effect of diverting them from already saturated landmarks, or discouraging short breaks away in the first place. Longer stays ease the pressure, says Font. “If you go to Paris for two days, you’re going to go to the Eiffel Tower. If you go for two weeks, you’re not going to go to the Eiffel tower 14 times.”
Similarly, repeat visitors have a better sense of the culture. “We should be asking how do we get tourists to come back, not how to get them to come for the first time. If they’re coming for the fifth time, it is much easier to integrate their behaviour with ours.”
Local governments can foster this sustainable activity by giving preference to responsible operators, and even high-paying consumers. Font says cities could stand to be more selective about the tourists they try to attract when the current metric for marketing success is how many there are, and how far they’ve come. “You’re thinking, ‘yeah, but at what cost …’”
He points to unpublished data from the Barcelona Tourist Board that prioritises Japanese tourists for spending an average of €40 more per day than French tourists – a comparison that fails to take into account their bigger carbon footprint. French tourists are also more likely to be repeat visitors that come at off-peak times, buy local produce, and spread out to less crowded parts of the city – all productive steps towards more sustainable tourism, and more peaceful relations with residents.
But part of the path forward is factoring in tourists as a part of urban life, and even embracing them – a hard ask at a time when they are in many places public enemy number one. When it comes to instigating the necessary cultural shift, authorities’ abilities are limited.
Catalan authorities once ran a television ad campaign encouraging locals to tolerate tourists, says Font, paraphrasing its takeaway message as: “Even if you don’t like them a lot, they come here to spend money.” But it had diminishing returns over time as residents decided that it was not their responsibility to welcome the group doing such damage to their quality of life.
Underpinning Barcelona’s new strategy to 2020 is the understanding that tourism is “an inherent and constituent part” of the city, not an alien phenomenon: “Tourists do not have to be considered passive players … but rather as visitors with rights and duties.”
Everyone has a part to play in facilitating that change of perspective, says Font: tourists, cities, residents and operators. But everyone stands to benefit, too.
As a boy in Barcelona, he would observe belligerent visitors overwhelm his city, drinking at inappropriate times of day, dressed in sombreros. When they made an effort to speak Spanish and try local cuisine (“rather than asking for bangers and mash”), he recalls locals being more receptive.
“When tourists dress differently to us, eat differently, and are active at different times of the day,” he says, “we resent them much, much more.”
British passengers flying to and from continental Europe for their summer holidays face the prospect of “devastating” delays because of tougher Schengen area border controls, Europe’s largest airline lobby group has warned.
Aage Duenhaupt, a spokesman for A4E, which represents airlines including BA’s owner, International Airlines Group, Ryanair and easyJet, said thousands of flights had already been delayed because of tighter checks at some EU airports.
Duenhaupt warned that this coming weekend, one of the busiest times of the year for departures from UK airports, there could be delays of up to two hours, with 200,000 passengers arriving in and departing from Mallorca, for example.
“Unless Spanish border control puts in place an emergency plan to avoid queues and help passengers to get through faster, there will be a lot of devastating delays for passengers,” he said.
“It’s a crazy situation. When arriving, at least delayed passengers don’t miss their flights, but when returning, you need to queue up again and could miss your flight. You need to make sure you are on time at the gate.”
However, airlines and tour operators suggested the problems were not widespread, and delays were not always due to immigration issues. Thomas Cook said the border control changes had briefly affected flights in Mallorca in May, when the tour operator briefly brought forward the times for its transfers.
IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling, said none of its airlines had delayed flights because of the issue, while Monarch said it was “monitoring the situation” and Ryanair said operations were “running as normal” – although the airline is asking passengers to check in three hours before takeoff.
An easyJet spokesman said: “Like all other European airlines, easyJet wants European governments to take necessary measures to reduce unnecessary passenger disruption.”
The intermittent delays follow the introduction in March of new EU regulations in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. The new rules demand both entry and exit checks on passengers from countries – including Britain – outside the 26-nation Schengen border-free zone.
Passengers’ details are checked against several databases – such as the Schengen information system and Interpol’s record of stolen and lost travel documents.
Member states are not obliged to check every non-Schengen passport until October, when regulation EU 2017/458 comes into full force, but several airports are already doing so and others are carrying out spot checks on selected flights.
Reports from passengers suggest the delays are not universal and depend on the airport, the time of day and the number of border control staff on duty.
“I’ve flown through Lyon airport several times in July and the time to get through customs and security etc has been no different from normal,” one traveller commented on the Guardian website.
Another said they had experienced long lines at Palma but “the carrier had advised us by text the day before to get there early and the delay was probably 30 minutes maximum”. Others said Amsterdam could be “pretty horrific” and reported a one-hour wait at Bergerac in France.
A4E said in a statement that the problems had been caused “because EU border controls are significantly understaffed to comply with tightened immigration checks”, adding that some passengers had missed flights as a result.
It said it had called on the European commission and member states to find a “swift solution” to the problem, citing “shameful pictures” of long queues in airports such as Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan and Brussels.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Palma in Mallorca and Paris-Orly airport have been particularly affected. “In Paris it has been a disaster in recent weeks,” Duenhaupt said. “UK passengers in Palma have also been complaining and some have seen three- to four-hour delays in Amsterdam.”
A spokesman for Aena, a Spanish state-owned company that runs 46 airports, including Palma, said passport borders were the responsibility of the national police corps, with which it was working to introduce the new checks.
He said the police had increased the number of employees working at airports, while Aena had provided more equipment at the facilities, with extra staff to inform and assist passengers before going through passport control.
The spokesman said Palma de Mallorca airport had hired seven extra staff at arrivals and three for departures. He said it had also opened two more counters in departures, bringing the total to five, and one more at arrivals, bring the total to three.
Aéroports de Paris plans to install 87 automatic passport reading machines at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports but has been held up by delays at the interior ministry which has yet to approve facial recognition.
Last month Marc Rochet, the president of Air Caraïbes, lambasted Orly-Sud for the waiting time at passport control, saying delays had exceeded 60 minutes every day since mid-June, causing “numerous public order problems” with angry passengers.
“In this summer period with heavy traffic, the situation has reached a critical level … with 320 hours of delays [at passport control] for international flights leaving Orly airport’s southern terminal,” Rochet said, adding that passenger frustrations had led to “near riot” situations.
PNC Contact, a French forum for airline stewards, said the situation at Orly was “from another era” or reminiscent of “queues in Soviet shops during the height of communism”. France “shows a very negative face as soon as tourists get off their plane”, it said in a report.
The interior ministry said 100 more border control staff would be on duty at both the French capital’s main airports, with new passport verification systems expected to “significantly reduce delays” from the end of July.
Passengers have aired their grievances over passport control queues on Twitter from destinations across Europe. “Schiphol, is this the norm at your international airport?? Random blocks halfway to the baggage hall?” tweeted one user.
While the ITV news journalist and presenter Alastair Stewart wrote:
A spokeswoman for the travel agency and tour operator association Abta said: “New, stricter passport checks are resulting in longer queues at some airports, including Palma, which is already busy due to a significant increase in passenger numbers.
“Tour operators will ensure that customers get to the airport in plenty of time. However, independent travellers will need to check with their airlines and, where necessary, ensure they factor these longer queuing times into their travel plans when flying in and out of the airport.”