Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

EU blocks Austria on Italy border checks

  • Austria wants border checks with Italy (Photo: Reuters)

Austrian authorities pushed to extend their internal border control checks to include all of Italy but were shot down by other EU states.

The Council, representing member states, on Thursday (12 May), agreed to extend existing border control checks in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway for another six months.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Member states approved a recommendation by the EU commission to extend existing checks because of "deficiencies" in the protection of EU external borders in Greece.

The recommendation authorised Austria to continue checks at its borders with Hungary and Slovenia.

Two EU officials confirmed Vienna had at an EU ambassadors meeting on Wednesday attempted to expand the scope of its existing controls to also include Italy.

"The question came from Austria: 'What about all of our borders, what about our border with Italy? Can we not use controls there?' The commission said ‘No' and the council said ‘No'," said the EU official.

Another EU official said Austria had also attempted it "but didn't get support".

A diplomat in Brussels said the Austrians had wanted to have some flexibility, but the EU commission insisted the extension would only apply to checks already in place.

Brenner Pass

Austria's interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka in April had threatened to seal the border at the Brenner Pass with Italy over fears refugees would seek to enter from Italy.

Plans are in place to erect a 370 metre chain-link fence with four checkpoints on the Alpine highway that links the two nations.

"The plan is to be ready to put into practice a border management like between Austria and Slovenia, if necessary," noted a diplomat.

Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has critised any barrier along the pass by the Austrians as "flagrantly against European rules, as well as against history, against logic and against the future".

But the move by Austria point to growing fears in Vienna that a sudden influx of people will cross from Libya into Italy over the summer months.

Austria can invoke a different set of rules under the Schengen Borders Code to impose controls with Italy, should it so choose.

"They [Austria] can unilaterally introduce controls for eight months if they are proportionate and justified by the evidence," noted the EU official.

EU law allows member states to impose a two-month control in unforeseen circumstances if there is an emergency. It can then impose another six months for foreseen circumstances.

The EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos has no desire to see any controls at the Brenner pass.

Last week, he sent a letter to the Austrian authorities outlining EU rules on the matter.

"I have sent a letter that we do not agree with the introduction of border controls or border checks," Avramopoulos told euro-deputies in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Greek deficiencies

The existing internal controls in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway will be maintained despite a dramatic drop in the flow of refugees into Europe when compared to April and May last year.

The move to extend the checks was launched following an unannounced visit by experts from the EU border agency Frontex to verify Greek border controls last November.

They said Greece had "serious deficiencies" on how it manages its borders, posing a larger existential threat over the entire passport-free Schengen area. The threat gave the EU the legal basis to prolong the checks.

Greece, for its part, denies that it cannot manage its own borders and notes it has met some 43 out of 50 recommendations from the EU commission to plug the gaps.

Orban rejects Weber's plea to stop anti-EU posters

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has pledged to put up new anti-migrant posters - despite hopes in his centre-right EU family that he might "apologise and put an end" to the campaign.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  2. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London
  3. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  4. UK announces EEA trade deal ahead of EU summit
  5. Four European cities among world's most expensive
  6. Violent 'yellow vest' protesters ban in Paris
  7. Russia celebrates fifth anniversary of Crimea annexation
  8. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  2. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  3. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  4. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  5. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  6. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  7. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections
  8. The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us