EU still divided by national borders

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Crossing borders between EU countries which have officially eliminated frontier controls remains a challenge, mainly as a result of queues at petrol stations in countries with cheaper gas, journalists from EURACTIV discovered while travelling over the vacation period.

Summer bottlenecks at some frontiers within the bloc strongly resembled the days when travellers had to undergo border controls, the journalists noticed. But the main reason for the long waits was not identity or cargo checks, but rather the long queues at filling stations. Some of these even occasionally obstructed part of the highway, causing gridlock. 

The border between Austria and Hungary was particularly difficult to cross. Queues at the last filling station on Austrian soil at Nickelsdorf were so long that they spread beyond the area of the petrol station to the highway. Elsewhere, roads were not obstructed, but many travellers spent hours at border stations hoping to fill their tanks with cheaper fuel. 

Although the price of petrol does not differ massively between EU countries, many travellers were willing to sacrifice several hours of their holiday to save a few euros on a full tank. The commonly-used Super Euro 95 fuel costs roughly €1.39 in Austria and €1.50 in Germany, while in Hungary, petrol prices end up more expensive than their Austrian equivalents due to the need to buy Hungarian currency at the border and pay a commission on transactions. Although Hungarian petrol stations do accept euros, they then charge an exorbitant exchange rate. 

Travellers are also forced to stop at frontiers to buy a “vignette” for the respective country’s highways, adding to the gridlock. In high season, queues to buy a vignette in Austria and particularly Hungary caused frustration among travellers, leading some to wonder if borders were not in fact being reintroduced. 

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