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IMMIGRATION

Italy-Austria border controls ‘political catastrophe’

Austria imposing controls on its border with Italy would be a "political catastrophe" for Europe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Saturday.

Italy-Austria border controls 'political catastrophe'
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano (R) meets his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka last month. Photo: AFP

Vienna is threatening to resume checks on the Brenner Pass between the two countries as part of a package of anti-migrant measures if Italy does not do more to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria.

The Alpine route is a major European transport corridor and a key link between the north and south of the continent, said Juncker during an interview with Germany's Funke Mediengruppe.

“This is why everything that blocks the Brenner Pass will have not just serious economic consequences, but most importantly heavy political consequences,” he said.

With over 28,500 migrants arriving since January 1, Italy has once again become the principal entry point for migrants arriving in Europe, following a controversial EU-Turkey deal and the closure of the Balkan route up from Greece.

In previous years, many migrants landing in Italy have headed on to other countries including Austria but Rome now fears it could be stuck hosting thousands of new arrivals.

On average 2,500 lorries and 15,000 cars travel daily through the Brenner Pass — a crucial lifeline for Italy's exports to northern Europe that is already prone to delays even without border checks.

Austria sits at the crossroads of the two major migrant routes, from the Balkans and from Italy, and saw hundreds of thousands of migrants cross its territory in 2015. 

Authorities have received around 90,000 asylum applications from people fleeing war, persecution and poverty who have opted to settle in the country.

Juncker also raised the alarm over Austria's response to the migrant crisis which he said had tempted other countries to close their borders while making far-right politics “presentable” elsewhere in Europe.

“What we see in Austria we have unfortunately seen in other European countries, where (political) parties play with people's fears,” he said.

 

ECONOMY

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

International business owners in Vienna bring in billions of euros in revenue and taxes each year, according to a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce.

Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna's economy

New figures show that Vienna’s international entrepreneurs do more than simply boost diversity in Austria’s capital city – they also significantly contribute to the local economy.

The Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Commerce) has revealed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs.

Plus, these companies pay around € 3.7 billion every year in taxes and duties, reports ORF.

READ MORE: Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can’t vote

Walter Ruck, President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies with a migrant background not only enrich the diversity of the corporate landscape in Vienna, they are also an economic factor.”

Ruck added that more than 200 international companies move to the capital each year and said the diversity is helping Vienna to financially recover from the pandemic. 

The Chamber of Commerce considers a business owner to have a migration background if they were not born in Austria and/or they have a non-Austrian nationality.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

According to ORF, there are 34,000 entrepreneurs in Vienna with a migration background and 7,400 of those business owners have Austrian citizenship.

Additionally, 4,500 business owners have Slovakian nationality, 3,800 are from Romania and 2,600 have German citizenship.

The most popular business sector for people in Vienna with a migration background is retail, followed by real estate and technical services.

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