Austria will introduce tougher border controls at the Brenner Pass crossing with Italy from 1 June, as part of its tough response to the EU migration crisis, Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said today (12 April). The Commission expressed concern at the news.
With border restrictions along the Balkan route, Vienna expects migrant arrivals to Italy by sea to nearly double this year to 300,000, but both countries have said they would keep traffic across the border “fluid” at busy times.
The Brenner Pass, which links Austria and Italy, is the most important Alpine crossing for heavy goods traffic.
Asked if Austria planned to build a fence at the border, he referred to a system “similar to the one in Spielfeld” at Austria’s border with Slovenia, which consists of fences, lanes and tents.
The exact date for the introduction of stricter controls at the European North-South crossing depends on the number of migrants and the progress of construction work of the new border
control centre, Doskozil said, adding such work had started.
The European Commission was very concerned, according to a spokeswoman.
“If these plans were to materialise, then we would have to look at them very seriously. The Brenner Pass is essential for the freedom of movement within the European Union,” commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told a regular briefing.
EU executive had not been informed and had learned about them from media reports, she said.
A spokesman for Tyrol police said on Monday that current building work merely consisted of laying the foundations for part of the site.
Italy’s European Affairs Minister European Affairs Minister Sandro Gozi criticised the Austrian plan in a statement.
“It is not by erecting improvised walls that we will resolve problems…Vienna should reconsider this decision which runs counter both to the spirit and the letter of European rules as well as to the friendship that links Italy and Austria,” he said.
Austria’s parliament is due to vote on a draft law for tougher asylum rules in the coming weeks.
The highway across the Brenner Pass is the main thoroughfare through the Alps to get to Germany from Italy – by way of Austria – and Germany is Italy’s top trading partner.
About 2 million trucks cross it every year. A rail base tunnel has been discussed for years.
For transportation companies, long lines to get over the Brenner Pass would cause higher costs and slower services, said Franco Santagata, a former executive at Deutsche Post AG’s Italian unit and now a transport industry consultant in Italy.
“If the border controls mean that it will take more time to get from Milan to Munich and back, then the transport company is going to have to raise its prices,” he said.
Tensions reached a boiling point between the European states worst affected by the refugee crisis ahead of a meeting of Balkan states in Vienna today (24 February), as new figures showed no let-up in the influx of asylum seekers.
Austria announced it would step up controls along its southern borders on Tuesday (16 February), edging closer to Eastern European member states in their defiance of Germany’s push for an EU solution to the migrant crisis.
Hungary’s right-wing government shut the main land route for migrants into the European Union on Tuesday (15 September), aiming to halt a massive influx of refugees.