Impeding border traffic between Austria and Italy by imposing border controls would run counter to Austria's interests, outgoing president Heinz Fischer said Thursday in Vienna.
The Austrian head of state's comments came as a rebuke to the government, which is preparing to introduce rigorous checks at the Brenner Pass, a mountain pass at the border that straddles one of Europe's busiest road cargo routes.
"This artery must be looked after with special care," Fischer said, without ruling out that Austria would have to introduce some kind of controls.
Italian politicians and freighters are worried about the negative economic effects that an inspection regime could have at the Brenner, and they have asked the European Commission in Brussels to issue a legal opinion on Vienna's plans.
Fischer made his comments as he swore in Wolfgang Sobotka of the centre-right People's Party as new interior minister.
Sobotka succeeds Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who had been a main driver of increasingly restrictive border and asylum policies, and of Austria's efforts to close down the Balkan migration route.
Sobotka, who left regional politics to become minister, is expected to continue Mikl-Leitner's course.