More than a month after France announced that it would issue travel passes for unmarried couples separated due to pandemic-triggered travel bans and restrictions, French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune last Thursday finally told the press that “at the end of the week, the beginning of next week, we will have the first passes.” However, couples who applied for the travel pass known as laissez-passer are still waiting for them to be issued.
Over the past several weeks, the government remained silent despite repeated requests from local media groups for a confirmation date for when the passes would be made available. The Thursday confirmation was followed by another commitment by the minister this past Tuesday, once again in response to a query from the same Internet radio channel, France Inter.
The process for laissez-passer issuance began in early August when the French government announced that it was “putting in place a process” that would allow non-married partners separated by travel restrictions to finally be together again on French soil. But the challenge has been the application process itself, which involves lengthy paperwork that needs to be submitted to and vetted by the respective French consulate in the country where the other partner currently resides. The main problem seems to be how the consular authorities deem a relationship as being ‘serious enough’ to warrant the granting of a travel pass. France does recognize unmarried couples but only if certain conditions are met. Understandably it will be hard for some couples to prove the ‘seriousness’ of their relationship; hence, the hurdle.
The issue is now well over a month old and the matter is yet to be resolved. Meanwhile, the #LoveIsNotTourism group on Twitter took to arms and is organizing a protest on September 27, 2020, if the French government doesn’t start issuing the travel passes.
Italy was much quicker on the draw to allow unmarried couples to reunite. Earlier this month, the Italian government issued an emergency decree to lift the travel ban for couples where one of the partners resides in Italy, even in the case of unmarried couples who were not living together. Ah, but there’s that catch again: according to the decree, the requirement for the exemption is a “stable emotional relationship”!
Exactly how you’d prove to an airline issuing your ticket that you are in a stable emotional relationship with someone living in Italy is hard to imagine. For that matter, how ever would even a married couple prove that they were in a stable emotional relationship with their spouse? Perhaps the Italian and French governments are working on a top secret artificial intelligence application that can detect if two people are in love or not? Who knows!
As funny as that sounds, the prospect for hundreds, if not thousands, of couples separated by COVID-19 is no laughing matter. The force of the Twitter movement has been rapidly gaining momentum since it started around July, when it started putting social pressure on EU member state governments to allow unmarried couples to be together again despite border closures and restrictions on travel from countries not on their respective ‘allow lists.’
As of now, both governments have agreed to let the couples reunite, but only time will tell whether they make good on their promise or if it was just something that was said to ease the mounting pressure against them from the couples as well as lobby groups like the one on Twitter.