Austria's Foreign Minister Schallenberg Criticizes Italy's Transit Lawsuit

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: February 17, 2024; 15:39 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has sharply criticized Italy after the country decided to take legal action against Austria's Alpine transit regulations before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Taking legal action is certainly the wrong way to go," said Schallenberg today on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference, addressing Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini. (Symbolic photo) / Picture: © BMEIA Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres / Gruber / Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Schallenberg made his comments on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference and addressed his words directly to Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini, as reported by ORF. "The legal action is certainly the wrong way to go," emphasized Schallenberg, highlighting the extraordinary burden that the federal state of Tyrol has to bear in comparison to other country crossings due to the Alpine transit.

Italy's complaint, which has already been forwarded to the EU Commission, calls for EU infringement proceedings against Austria due to the Tyrolean measures to contain and channel road transit traffic. Schallenberg argues that the preference of trucks for Tyrol due to the lower costs compared to the Swiss passes cannot be in line with sustainability and climate considerations. "If trucks drive hundreds of kilometers on detours because Tyrol is simply cheaper, you can't say that this has to continue," says Schallenberg.

The Austrian federal government sees itself in the right and defends the measures taken. First and foremost, because of the election campaign that has begun, the government wants to position itself because of South Tyrol, as reported. The EU Commission now has three months to make a decision on the infringement proceedings and issue a statement. If proceedings are initiated, Austria will be allowed to respond.

The transit dispute does not only concern Austria and Italy, as reported by NÖN. Germany is also heavily involved as the main source and destination of the transit. Schallenberg also used the meeting in Munich to discuss the transit issue with the Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder and the German opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU). Last April, the heads of the states of Bavaria, Tyrol, and South Tyrol - Söder (CSU), Anton Mattle (ÖVP), and Arno Kompatscher (SVP) - proposed a "slot system" for digital, cross-border traffic management. All members come from the same party family. However, implementation requires an international treaty between Austria, Germany, and Italy. The current dispute highlights the complexity and European dimension of the transit problem, which requires a consensual solution.