Monday

20th Nov 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse