There were 90 minute traffic jams at Austria’s border with Germany over the weekend as a result of continuous border checks by police, introduced to try and control the movement of refugees and migrants.
In one section, a backlog of cars stretched back 14 kilometres on Saturday as motorists tried to make their way to Germany on Tyrol’s A12 road.
The route between the Austrian town of Kufstein and the southern German town of Kiefersfelden is popular with ski tourists and other holiday-makers in the region. Some motorists who tried to avoid the back-up caused by police checks by taking another route found themselves stuck as other roads in the region also came to a standstill.
It follows warnings a few weeks ago from tourism bosses in the region, who protested that the border controls will cause problems for holiday-makers to Tyrol and put them off coming.
Calls to end Italian Mediterranean route
Meanwhile, Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called for further border controls on Sunday, saying that following the closure of the Balkan route for migrants, he now also wants to shut off the Italian Mediterranean route into Austria.
In an interview with the Sunday edition of Germany’s Bild newspaper, Kurz said: “We must do everything that we did for the Balkan route for the Italian-Mediterranean route so that it is clear the time of waving through refugees to central Europe has past, no matter which route it is.”
He also criticised the policy of other countries, adding: “We must stop state-organised transportation of every refugee who arrives to Greece to central Europe. We have fulfilled the wishes of the refugees, which was understandable from a human perspective. But we have also ensured that continuously more refugees make the journey. It was correct to put a stop to the Balkan route.”
Cardinal speaks out about Austrian policy
His comments follow those made by Austria’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, who said the move to close the Balkan route was “an act lacking European solidarity”.
He also added that he understands that Austria went ahead with Balkan partners to close the route by themselves but said he sees this is only be an “emergency measure”. “That cannot, however, be the last word”, he added.
The Cardinal, who himself grew up as a refugee in Austria after his family fled Bohemia in the Czech Republic after the Second World War, also praised Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, describing her as a “brave and clever woman”.
He added: “And she is the person in Europa who says it the strongest and clearest that we must shoulder the problem together. I wish many European politicians had this clarity – including those in Austria who at one time stood fully behind Angela Merkel.”