Total conflict between the EU and Austria on the migrant case. In the last few days, Vienna has announced the construction of a barrier on the Brenner and has begun working at it. Its purpose is limiting the arrival of refugees from Italy to the Federal Republic. Austria has also threatened to close the border in case the Tyrol transforms into a “waiting room”. “It would send a bad sign to Europe,” said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
The same concept has been expressed also by the EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos who reiterated his line in an interview: “We do not need policies leading to the closed borders because it puts you Schengen at risk”. This treaty, which has created a space of free movement within the boundaries of Europe, has been repeatedly questioned in the last few months. It is one of the cornerstones of the EU project and, according to Avramopoulos, “unilateral initiatives like that end up undermining freedom of movement. The Commissioner asked “Minister Mikl-Leitner an explanatory text on what they are doing and why are they doing it. We are waiting for it to arrive any moment now. We will send a formal letter too.” “It is not the right answer to the problems – he said -. I hope this decision will not be implemented and that dialogue will prevail. All of us have to do everything in our power to stabilize Schengen again before the end of this year. The twenty-eight member States must honor their commitments. The moment they will do so, when every decision is implemented, there will no longer be any problems between the States.”
Avramopoulos said he is “very disappointed” by the numbers concerning relocation: “Last year, they were probably right to express doubts on the fact that those who arrived were actually identified and registered. Now there is total control.” According to the Commissioner, “at the moment there is no evidence that the flow of migrants is moving from Greece to Italy, although arrivals from Libya are increasing”. He also guaranteed: “We are supporting Italy and we will continue to do so. We are ready to increase the presence of Frontex on the coasts, if necessary.”
Vienna’s answer was not long in coming. “I consider the rumors about the closure of the border between Italy and Austria at the Brenner to be false and misleading” – Austrian President Heinz Fischer wrote in a letter to La Repubblica. According to the head of State “problems at the Brenner will certainly decrease proportionally to a more effective protection of Europe’s external borders. Italy should contribute to it, according to its means, so we can honor the European principles together.”
Fischer explained that he understands “the concerns of the [Tyrolean] regional authorities” which “should be taken into consideration”, but added also that, despite the refugee crisis, “it is necessary the movement of people and goods between Italy and Austria take place according to the “European principles”.
Austria is now able to allow “the controlled arrival of about 150 asylum seekers” and this number will “grow significantly till June, so as to cope with the different daily or weekly arrival rates,” Fischer added. This way, according to the President, “Austria will continue to be counted among European countries that are an example of hospitality in proportion to their population.