If necessary, there will be only controls at the Brenner Pass, no walls are going to be built, assured the Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka who mentioned “erroneously reported” news. Vienna, he guaranteed, “respects Schengen”, but calls on Europe to “assume its responsibilities” on migration managing. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano welcomed these words cautiously at the end of the face-to-face with his Austrian counterpart in Rome following days of extreme tension. “We have avoided a crisis and the closure of the Brenner for now” he said, adding right afterwards: “Is it definitive? We need to work at it.”
The only certain element so far is the message sent by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Vienna, in which he expressed “serious concern about what is happening”. He also assured that “the Commission will take into consideration any measure the Austrian Government will decide or announce”. Next Thursday, Juncker will be in Rome to discuss it with the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who accused Austria of “barefaced” violation of the European rules yesterday and has repeated also today that “the choice to close the borders is decoupled from reality.” Meantime, in a conversation with the bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone, Mgr. Ivo Muser, the Pope stressed the urgency of helping people who are fleeing. Sobotka, during the press conference at the embassy meant to clarify the Austrian position, answered also Renzi. “Austria – he observed – does nothing against the European law. It respects the Geneva Convention and has just passed an asylum law. We always act in accordance with the European law and we hope that everyone is doing the same, we want everyone’s solidarity.”
At the moment, there still seems to be mistrust on both sides, but we are working to find an agreement. Austria will not give up on its position nor on the fences it has already started to build, assured the Italian minister, in order to “canalize” migrant “flows”. Italy will strengthen controls: “We have asked for more policemen and financiers,” assured Alfano, and there will be daily meetings between the border guards of the two countries. Yet, there is still skepticism. “Italy will not be deterred by a booth. We will prove it is a waste of money,” he said.
Besides, there is a war of the numbers. On the one hand, the country is afraid of not being able to regulate the flows, whereas on the other hand, the data provided by Italian Interior Ministry: “To date, 2.722 migrants coming from Austria were stopped in Italy and this number is higher than that of the migrants who travel the other way around.” Their anxiety is baseless. Yet, Vienna ended up in the middle of this controversy not only because of the declaration it made or the misunderstanding that took place on the possible closure of the Brenner Pass. Also Austria’s new asylum law is much discussed. The law has been strongly criticized by the Austrian Caritas, according to which the new rule “voids and bypasses the right of asylum” and by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who pointed out the “negative impact” of the “growing” restrictions on immigration.
Whereas there is still diffidence on the border between Italy and Austria, Rome and Vienna seem to consolidate when faced with Brussels and the necessity to involve all 27 EU members in the migrant dossier. “We took note of Austria’s support of the ‘Migration compact’ – Alfano said – , the package of measures we are going to put on the negotiation table of the meeting between EU Heads of State and Government”.