ITALY AUSTRIA BRENNER BORDER CLASHES, migrants, police.jpg
Photograph: EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

Austria's new chancellor said Wednesday that he does not see an immediate need to implement border controls at the Brenner frontier pass with Italy, following months of tensions with its southern neighbour over the plan.

"When it comes to border controls, we have to absolutely act cautiously," Christian Kern told journalists in Brussels during a visit to the European Commission, the European Union's executive.

"The number of refugees that actually come over this border [at the Brenner] can be counted on one hand, two hands," he added. "So at this moment I see no strain there, especially also because Italy is carrying out an exemplary management of the refugee flows."

Kern's remarks "are a rightful and beautiful acknowledgment" of Italian efforts, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano reacted in Rome through a statement.

"[Migratory] flows may vary, but we are ready to face them in the best way possible, bearing well in mind that cooperation between states is strategic ... because it is the only way to protect Europe from walls and divisions," he added.

The European Commission had joined Italy in expressing concerns over Austria's plans to introduce controls at the Brenner in case of a sudden jump in migrant flows.

There are fears that controls at this key transit point could further erode Europe's borderless Schengen zone, which has already been severely tested by the arrival last year of more than 1 million migrants and asylum seekers on European shores.

In 2016, as of Sunday there have been just over 221,000 arrivals, including around 159,500 to Greece and about 55,500 to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Italy has become Europe's main entry point only since April.

Latest news

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

Reformist Macron wins support of key centrist leader for French vote

France's reformist presidential hopeful, Emmanuel Macron, got a boost on Wednesday when he picked up the support of a party leader whose centrist constituency played a pivotal role in the last two presidential elections.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

100th anniversary of rescuing starving children marked

A special ceremony was held in Zagreb's Croatian National Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest humanitarian undertakings in the history of the Croatian people which saved children in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from famine in the last two years of World War I.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.