Italy, Austria make deal to avoid Brenner Pass closure

AP News
Posted: Apr 28, 2016 2:09 PM
Italy, Austria make deal to avoid Brenner Pass closure

MILAN (AP) — Italy and Austria have reached a deal to avoid closing the heavily trafficked Brenner Pass, an important conduit for tourists and goods transiting Europe, Italy's interior minister said Thursday.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said he was assured by his Austrian counterpart at a meeting in Rome that "no wall will be constructed" at the two nations' border to block migrants from possibly moving through Italy to Austria.

"We have avoided so far a crisis and the closure of the Brenner crossing," Alfano told reporters. "Is it definitive? We need to stay on top."

He said Italy must block large numbers of migrants from reach the border while Austria must "be reasonable to avoid a block that would cause enormous damage to tourism in Italy and in Austria, and to imports and exports."

Italian transport companies and businesses remain concerned about tensions along the border, noting that delays will make Italian goods less competitive in the important German market than those arriving from Spain and France. Some 2 million vehicles transit the pass each year.

Alfano said Italy refused Austria's request to deploy Austrian police on Italian trains heading north, but said Italy would reinforce police patrols of the roads leading up to the Brenner Pass.

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said it was important to meet in person to "clarify Austria's position and to calm the emotions that have heated up."

The deal comes a day after Austrian police announced they were planning three highway checkpoints to prevent migrants from crossing into Austria from Italy, along with a 370-meter (404-yard) border fence to prevent unauthorized crossings.

Alfano said Austria would still make preparations for a fence.

"But Italy won't be scared by a booth and we will demonstrate that it is money wasted," he said.

So far this year, 2,722 migrants have arrived in Italy from Austria, Alfano said.