Italy Takes Austria to the European Court of Justice over Transit Measures

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: October 16, 2023; 14:32 ♦ (Vindobona)

The ongoing controversy over transit measures on the Brenner route reached a new level of escalation when the Italian government decided to take Austria to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Italy's Transport Minister Matteo Salvini is taking action against Austria. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Kasa Fue / CC BY-SA 4.0 (

The decision was announced after a Council of Ministers meeting in Rome, where Italian Transport Minister Matteo Salvini announced the lawsuit, ORF reported. Anti-transit measures in Tyrol, including sectoral driving bans, nighttime driving bans, and block closures, have caused tensions between the two countries that have been unresolved for years.

Salvini said the action before the ECJ was a "difficult but compelling decision" taken because of the EU Commission's attitude and inability to find a negotiated solution, DiePresse reported. He stressed that this is the first time in the history of the Italian Republic that the Council of Ministers has launched an appeal to the ECJ against transit bans imposed by another Member State. He said this marks the beginning of an unprecedented procedure that will also involve other countries.

Background to the controversy

The discussion about these transit measures between Italy, Germany, and Austria has been going on for years. While the black and red Tyrolean regional government and Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler support the maintenance of these measures, Salvini sees them as contrary to EU law and accuses the EU Commission of inaction. There have been diplomatic successes at the regional level, Italian RaiNews reported, such as the introduction of a bookable highway slot system between Tyrol, South Tyrol, and Bavaria, but this requires the approval of the nation-states and a state treaty.

Before the decision to sue was made, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani had tried to mend fences and work toward a solution. He stressed the need for reason and hoped for an agreement. Nevertheless, the Italian government decided to go to the ECJ.

The case will focus on whether Austrian transit restrictions are in line with EU treaties and whether they violate the principle of free movement of goods and people. This procedure could have far-reaching effects on cross-border traffic and relations between the member states of the European Union.

Regarding the current election campaign in South Tyrol, both Lega leader Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia leader Antonio Tajani visited the region to gain support for their parties, Italian RaiNews reported. During the visit, Salvini criticized Austria's transport policy and emphasized the impact it has on the environment and the economy in South Tyrol. Tajani, on the other hand, stressed the importance of pragmatic environmental protection and cooperation with the South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) in the governing coalition. The political landscape in the region remains dynamic and characterized by various interests.