Italy slams Austrian border deployment
Austrian Ambassador Rene Pollitzer was called to the Italian foreign ministry “following the Austrian government’s statement about deploying troops to the Brenner [border]”, the ministry announced.
Rome said last year that any plans to introduce controls at the Brenner Pass (pictured), a major road and rail link between northern and southern Europe, would contravene EU law.
Hans Peter Doskozil, Austrian defence minister, said on Monday that Vienna would “very soon” impose border checks and deploy soldiers on its frontier with Italy if the influx of refugees across the Mediterranean was not controlled.
“I expect that very soon border controls will be activated and that an assistance deployment [by the armed forces] will be requested,” he told the Krone newspaper.
The newspaper reported that 750 soldiers were ready for deployment within 72 hours and that four armoured vehicles had already been sent to the Brenner Pass.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters in Strasbourg that Austria had not notified the EU of any extra border protection plans.
Italy, Spain and Greece complain that they are bearing the brunt and the cost of the migrant crisis.
Politicians in northern Italy argued there was no increase in migration in their region, and they linked the deployments to Austria’s parliamentary elections in October.
“The situation at the Brenner is stable, calm – even statistics say this,” said Arno Kompatscher, leader of Italy’s border province of Sud Tyrol in German or Alto Adige in Italian. The region was handed to Italy in the 1919 in the Paris peace treaties after the First World War and it still uses two languages and retains much of its Austrian character.
Austria and Italy were already cooperating on border controls, he argued.
“In Austria they are in an election mood,” Kompatscher told Italian newswire Adnkronos. “Rather than talking about tanks, we need to organise ourselves to give a hand to Italy and tackle the phenomenon already in Africa.”
More than 85,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by boat from North Africa so far this year, making it the busiest point of entry into the EU.
Eleonora Poli, researcher at the Italian Institute of International Affairs, said: “Playing the migration card might help traditional parties to acquire legitimacy needed to win the election. My understanding is that it is more of a political game than an actual need to control the border with Italy.”
The Brenner Pass from Austria. Picture credit: Wikimedia