Austria does not give in. After having built a barrier on the Brenner to curb the arrival of migrants from Italy, it reiterates its readiness to close the borders altogether “in an extreme case”. These words belong to Austrian Minister of Defense Hans Peter Doskozil – according to APA reports – during a meeting of his party, SPHE, held in Innsbruck.
If Italy continues to let refugees transit – he explained – and does not take back the rejected, transforming Tyrol into a “waiting room”, “we will ask Italy the possibility to control also on its territory.” In an extreme case, we are ready to close the borders, he reiterated.
If Rome keeps allowing migrants to transit and Germany keeps monitoring its border as it has done so far, “we will have a serious problem.” “We have to go to the offensive,” that is, “announce the boundary controls and create legislative measures,” – he said, meaning the intensification of asylum law in Austria which will enter into force on 1 June. Austria, he said, has set a ceiling of 37,500 asylum requests this year and it has already received 16,550-17,000 applications.
Brussels has announced that it is waiting to receive Vienna’s clarifications. In a phone call, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told European Commissioner for Immigration Dimitris Avramopoulos that the fence was not born to stop the flow of migrants, but to guide it toward the check points. He has also promised a letter with explanations. The European Commission wants to see what is going to happen in practice. It is also ready to conduct an assessment according to the criteria of proportionality and necessity (as it was requested by Italy in a letter sent by Interior and Foreign Ministers Angelino Alfano and Paolo Gentiloni), which might be ready within two weeks. Should it find a violation of the Schengen Code, an infringement procedure will be opened, which might reach the European Court of Justice. But it specifies: “this scenario is still a long way off. We are not at that point yet.”
Italy spoke up again too. Gentiloni warned: Austria is a “friendly country and I hope we can continue to collaborate, but we cannot accept the logic of unilateral actions from it”, such as those implemented in the corridor of Western Balkans, where Greece found itself facing a humanitarian crisis overnight, a crisis that has not been unlocked yet. Ambassador Carlo Calenda, head of the Italian Representation to the EU at the meeting of the Permanent Representatives of the 28 member states (Coreper) for the preparation of the work of the EU Justice and Home Affair Council on 21 April in Luxembourg, restated the importance of the “full respect” for the principle of “necessity” and “proportionality.” Meanwhile, Alfano pointed out that this action “may not respect the golden rule of good sense.”
Nonetheless, Austria – where on 24 April presidential elections will be held and where most of the parties fear the rise of the far right, which was strengthened by its anti-migrant campaign – reiterated its compliance with EU rules. This model has been already put in place on the border with Spielfeld “and is totally compatible with Schengen,” – said Ministry Spokesman Hermann Muhr. “If the model is compatible in Spielfeld, why should it not work for the Brenner Pass? The intensity of checks – he adds – will depend on the success of Italy’s measures to limit the uncontrolled flow of migrants to the Brenner”.