Austria to reopen border with Germany for visits and shopping

People from Bavaria will be able to pop over the border into Austria and vice versa to visit friends and relatives from Wednesday, Bavaria's Minister Markus Söder and Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have announced.

Bavaria's State Premier Markus Söder and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met in Munich (Sven Hoppe/POOL/AFP)
Bavaria's State Premier Markus Söder and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met in Munich (Sven Hoppe/POOL/AFP)

People will once again be able to travel between Bavaria in Germany and Austria to visit friends or relatives or go cross-border shopping from Wednesday, May 12th. 

The news was announced by Bavaria’s Minister Markus Söder during a visit by Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to Munich on Tuesday.

The opening will occur one week before tourism is due to open up in both Bavaria and Austria.

In Austria, hotels and restaurants will open on May 19th, while Bavaria will open up tourism on May 21st. The seven-day incidences of both regions are promising, Austria’s was less than 100 on Tuesday, while Bavaria ‘s stands at 116.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the border region between Austria and Bavaria was “interwoven unlike hardly any other region in Europe”, and said he was looking forward to the borders opening again.

Bavaria Minister Markus Söder said tourism in Austria would be possible for Germans from the Whitsun holidays, providing the emergency brake was not needed.

He said Bavaria and Austria were “close friends and partners”, who had both been “badly affected” by the coronavirus pandemic, concluding that both countries were now “on a long home stretch”.


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Church slams Austria’s ‘Islam Map’

The Austrian Catholic church became the latest religious group to criticise a government-backed, online map of hundreds of Islamic organisations which sparked violence against the country's Muslim minority.

Church slams Austria's 'Islam Map'
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP

The highly controversial map shows details of more than 600 Muslim associations — from youth groups to mosques — including details on their location and photos of members.

The map was first presented by a government-funded group monitoring Muslim extremism and by Austria’s Integration Minister Susanne Raab, a member of conservative, anti-migration Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), who called it a tool to “fight political Islam as a breeding ground for extremism.”

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the head of the Austrian Catholic church, wrote in an op-ed Friday that it was “dangerous to give the impression that one of the religious community is under general suspicion”, and asked why one of the country’s many religious communities was singled out.

Umit Vural, head of the Islamic Religious Community of Austria, described the map as a “massive security threat” to Muslims, while the Muslim Youth Austria organisation said several Muslims had already been attacked and a mosque has been defaced since that map went online in late May.

About a quarter of Austria’s majority Catholic population vote for the Islamophobic far-right party, and far-right extremists in the past week have put up signs reading “Be careful! Political Islam is near you” on streets where the map showed Muslim organisation, calling on “fellow patriots” to join them.

EU Special Representative on Antisemitic and Anti-Muslim Hatred and Hate Crimes Daniel Hoeltgen urged the government to take down the map, while a range of representatives of other religious communities, including the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, also rebuked it.

Verbal and physical attacks against Muslims have already been on the rise since an Austrian-born Jihadist killed four in Vienna in early November, according to a group documenting Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism.