Danish ski tourists travel to locked-down Austria under pretence of work: report

Tourists from Denmark have travelled to Austria stating work purposes – enabling them to enter the country under Covid-19 restrictions – when their actual intentions are to party at ski resorts, according to a report.

Danish ski tourists travel to locked-down Austria under pretence of work: report
Illustration photo. Leonhard Foeger/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Danes and other foreign nationals have circumvented Austria’s coronavirus entry restrictions in order to use the country’s near-empty ski slopes and gather in breach of rules, according to Danish public service broadcaster DR.

Austria currently has a de facto ban on foreign tourists entering the country for skiing, but nationals of Denmark and other countries have entered the Alpine land by registering as work seekers, according to the report.

Helmut Mall, the mayor in Tyrolian ski resort town Sankt Anton, told DR that he could not put an exact number on the amount of tourists who had entered the region in this manner for skiing, but said there were around 300 seasonal workers in the town including “a good number of Danes”.

“Since Christmas, more and more foreigners have come here. Around 10-15 per day,” Mall said.

“They say they are looking for seasonal work. But Austria is closed down because of corona. Ski tourism has been left fallow. There’s no work to look for here,” he added.

According to the report, visitors have been observed using the ski slopes, even though only local Austrian residents are currently permitted to use them.

“You can find current pictures on social media where 30-40 young people are partying illegally,” the mayor told DR.

Local Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung has meanwhile reported that British, Swedish and Danish nationals are currently staying in Sankt Anton.

The issue is already causing anger in Tyrol, which is reportedly one of the most hardest-hit in Austria by mutated, more infectious forms of Covid-19.

“Young Swedes, Danes and Brits are having apres-ski parties in Sankt Anton. And we are naively guessing at how the B117 and South African variants have been able to spread in Austria,” journalist Isabelle Daniel tweeted.

Local authorities are also being criticised in the area, in which the resort town of Ischgl – an epicentre of the early stages of the European outbreak of Covid-19 last year – is also located.

“Question for the interior ministry: How often have you checked whether the lockdown is being complied with in Tyrol and Vorarlberg? How many fines have been issued? The mayor of Sankt Anton apparently knows about Brits with false address registrations and hotels that are open. Farce!,” journalist Jakob Winter tweeted.

Travelling within the EU for work purposes is legal under the EU’s free movement laws. DR’s report suggests that British nationals in Tyrol are likely to have arrived prior to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st 2020.

It is possible to register a secondary residence in Sankt Anton with a signed confirmation from a local landlord and then register as seeking work, according to the report. As such, travel into Austria for work purposes is possible, the broadcaster writes. Entry quarantine rules must still be observed. Hotels are required to remain closed under current restrictions.

Some of the around 300 foreign seasonal workers currently registered in Sankt Anton arrived before Christmas, Mall noted.

“At that time we thought that ski tourism would reopen in January. Others came once it became clear the lockdown would continue,” he told DR.

“I would like to say to young Danes who want to go skiing in the Alps: Stay home! You are more than welcome once we have put the pandemic behind us,” he also said.

READ ALSO: Denmark extends UAE flight ban by one week

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EXPLAINED: Who will be Tyrol’s new governor?

The Austrian state of Tyrol held elections over the weekend with historical results, especially for the leading ÖVP party. So who will be its new governor?

EXPLAINED: Who will be Tyrol's new governor?

The western Austrian state of Tyrol is a stronghold for the centre-right party ÖVP, which also leads the governing coalition in the federal government. On Sunday, Austrian citizens went to the polls for the state parliament elections, forming new legislation – and putting their support on their favourite candidates.

Even though the ÖVP got most of the votes, it is far from getting a majority and will need to enter into a coalition to rule. The party got 34.71 percent of the votes, down by 9.55 percentage points from the previous elections and a significant setback for the blacks. However, this gives them 14 seats in parliament.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How do Austrians elect their chancellor?

The centre-left SPÖ ended with 17.48 percent of the votes – just 0.23 percentage points higher than the last vote in 2018, getting seven seats. On the other hand, the far-right FPÖ got a major victory, upping their results by 3.31 percentage points and reaching 18.84 percent, guaranteeing seven seats in parliament.

The Grüne ended with 9.20 percent (three seats), Fritz with 9.90 percent (three seats), Neos with 6.28 percent (two seats), MFG with 2.78 percent, KPÖ with 0.67 percent and Mach mit with 0.13 percent.

How does the election process work?

Tyrol, much like the Austrian federal government, has a parliamentary system. This means voters will choose the parties they want to have seats in the state parliament. So, for example, ÖVP will get about a third of the seats in the house.

The parties need a minimum percentage of votes to get representation in the parliament. Even though MFG, KPÖ and Mach Mit got votes, they have failed to elect representatives and gain seats in the state parliament.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: What exactly does the president do?

After the parliament is elected, its members then choose a governor. In practice, since the parties already run with a suggested government candidate, people who vote for them also know which person they elect for the executive position.

In the case of ÖVP, Anton Mattle, the 59-year-old career politician, was the party’s choice for the top state job. Had the party won more than 50 percent of the votes, they would be able to elect Mattle, the new governor, without discussing it with other parties.

But, since it didn’t, the ÖVP now will start talks with other parties looking to form a majority government and elect Mattle – plus ensure that by having a clear majority in the state parliament, they will be able to pass legislation.

What coalitions are possible?

Technically, any coalitions between two or more parties that lead to a majority in the state legislature are possible, even those without ÖVP. However, since the centre-right party got the most votes, it traditionally receives the right to try and form a government first.

Experts believe the most likely scenario is for a major coalition between the blacks and the reds, meaning the ÖVP and the SPÖ. They would have to discuss their main government proposals, the distribution of executive positions and other points to see if an ÖVP-SPÖ government is possible.

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

An ÖVP-FPÖ coalition could also technically have a majority, but Mattle had already rejected the idea of an agreement with only the far-right.

Additionally, ÖVP could look into a three-way coalition, bringing, for example, the Grüne and Fritz to the government.

So who will be the next governor?

It is most likely that Anton Mattle, from the ÖVP, will get the job. The only question is who his party will be ruling with.

He told Austrian media that the exploratory talks for a coalition agreement would start in the coming days.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?