New Austrian chancellor downplays need for Brenner border controls

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.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
Author: 

More from Europe

Turkish authorities capture main suspect in Istanbul nightclub attack

Turkish police Monday captured the man believed to be responsible for the New Year's Eve attack in an Istanbul...

Berlin official resigns after scandal over cover-up of Stasi past

A Berlin official who spent five months working for the East German secret police announced his resignation on...

Hollande to Trump: Europe doesn't need "outside advice"

French President Francois Hollande rejected remarks by US president-elect Donald Trump on the future of the European...

Merkel warns against speedy Brexit talks ahead of May's speech

German Chancellor Angela Merkel played down expectations on Monday of a rapid round of negotiations aimed at ending...

Merkel fires back at Trump, says Europe will choose its own 'destiny'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday fired back at US president-elect Donald Trump's denunciation of her...