Austria’s Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, has revealed that the government plans on extending internal border controls with Hungary and Slovenia for another half a year.
In an interview for Ö1-Morgenjournal, Minister Karner has said that in spite of the costs that arise from internal border controls, Austria has to keep them going for safety reasons.
“Yes, it costs, but it is necessary about the safety of the Austrian population,” he said.
According to him, the country has faced a high migration pressure in 2022, what has made the border controls essential, to prevent these movements. He has also pointed out that so far in 2023, 80 people smugglers have been arrested thanks to border controls, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
The move has not been welcomed by the Slovenian part, who, in the past year, have often criticised Austria for keeping border controls in place inside the border-free Schengen Area.
While border controls with Hungary and Slovenia are fully performed, controls with Slovakia are a little different as of February this year.
Since February 6, the static border controls at the crossings between Austria and Slovakia have been replaced by border area controls, carried out by mobile teams in coordination with the Slovakian authorities.
In addition, time after time, Austrian and Slovenian authorities also carry out joint border patrols, in a bid to prevent irregular migration between the two.
Austria had first introduced border controls with its two neighbouring countries in September 2015, in a bid to prevent the massive migrant movements that were occurring in Europe at the time. Since then, border controls have been extended every six months, under the argument that they were needed to fight illegal migration and human smuggling.
The current controls were supposed to expire on May 11. In order to extend them, Austria needs to formally inform the EU Commission.
“We will inform the European Commission in the coming days that we will have to extend these border checks,” Minister Karner has said.
The reintroduction of border controls is regulated by the Schengen Borders Code, and according to the same, the internal border controls can be reintroduced in two cases – those requiring immediate action, and cases where exceptional circumstances put the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk.
However, neither of cases foresees that border controls should last longer than two years.
While in cases requiring immediate action internal controls can be prolonged up to 20 days at a time, and the overall period of border control cannot exceed two months, the second cases permit controls to remain in place up to two years.
Yet, the Schengen Borders Code establishes that such a measure shall only be made as a last resort.
Currently, France, Iceland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, have internal border controls in Place, the majority of them set to expire in May.