Austria’s new border controls concern EU

European Union expresses deep concern over Austria introducing new border controls

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Signs reading "Austria" and "Italy" are seen at the train station of Italian village of Brenner, Italy, at the Italian-Austrian border April 12, 2016

The European Union expressed its deep concern about Austria introducing new border controls on Tuesday saying it is "very concerned.”

Austria started construction on its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass in the Alps on Tuesday due to fears of a new refugee influx coming into the country.

After receiving 90,000 asylum claims last year, Austria kept a harsh position towards the refugee influx by introducing border controls with Slovenia and Hungary.

Italy’s Foreign and Interior Ministers sent a joint letter to the EU Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, asking for urgent talks with Vienna.

"If these plans should materialise then we will have to look at them very seriously. The Brenner pass is essential for freedom of movement within the European Union," European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said on Tuesday.

"The Commission is very concerned."

Italian ministers said that Austrian actions "did not appear to be based on the facts," saying that Austria’s Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, had "presented no data showing an alleged increase in the migrant flow from Italy."

While several countries introduce border controls as the only way of controlling the refugee influx coming into Europe, the passport-free Schengen zone has come under threat in Europe’s attempt to solve the refugee crisis.

"The re-introduction of border controls at internal Schengen borders has to be exceptional and proportionate," Bertaud said.

"The Commission will assess any measures that are taken by the Austrian government from the perspective of the necessity and the proportionality of the measures," she added.

After the closure of the Balkan route from Greece to Austria, the country fears that a new influx will make its way from Libya to Italy.

But according to Bertaud there is no proof of such a plan.

"For the time being there is indeed no evidence that flows of irregular migrants are shifting from Greece to Italy, although we have seen an increase in the numbers of people arriving to Italy," she said.

Austria says new border measures will be introduced by June 1.

TRTWorld and agencies