Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz visits Bolzano

On his working visit to South Tyrol Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz met inter alia with Province Governor Arno Kompatscher and the President of the European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino Ugo Rossi.

Talks focused on the refugee situation at the Brenner Pass, the European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino and the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region.

Together with the Province Governor of Tyrol Günther Platter and the Province Governor of Upper Austria Josef Pühringer, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz met the Province Governor of South Tyrol Arno Kompatscher, the Province Councillors Stocker and Achammer, the President of the South Tyrolean Province Parliament Thomas Widmann as well as the President of the European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino Ugo Rossi for discussions in Bolzano today. The main focus of the meeting was managing the influx of refugees at the Brenner Pass. 

In 2015, Austria took in some 90,000 refugees. Translated to the population of Italy this would amount to 600,000 people, while Italy only took in a total of 84,000 refugees in 2015. This high number of refugees results in a substantial permanent burden on the social system and on social cohesion in Austria. “Right from the very beginning we have supported a common European solution to the refugee crisis”, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz stressed at the press conference held after the meeting. The closing of the Western Balkans route and the agreement with Turkey is now shifting the focus of attention to alternative migration routes. In the first three months of this year the number of migrants seeking to reach Europe via the central Mediterranean route has increased by 80 per cent, along with migrants heading for Europe from Africa. Italy is playing a key role in this context. “We therefore need to be prepared for all possible scenarios and at the same time send out a clear signal to people smugglers that this route to Europe is blocked. The checks at the Brenner Pass are thus an emergency measure which should have the least possible impact on the normal movement of persons and goods”, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz stressed. 

To this end, Foreign Minister Kurz is in close and ongoing dialogue with the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, South Tyrolean Province Governor Kompatscher and Tyrolean Province Governor Platter. With their resolutions and the joint deployment of a task force, the three province governors of the European Region have demonstrated their excellent cooperation on this difficult issue irrespective of their diverging views”, Kurz stated. The concrete implementation of border management falls within the scope of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. In a meeting scheduled for the end of the week in Rome, Interior Minister Mikl-Leitner and her Italian counterpart Alfano will discuss further steps. The implementation of the 5 Points Plan ensures effective protection of the EU’s external borders and that persons who really are in need of protection may come to the EU under resettlement programmes involving cooperation among all EU partners.

The European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol –Trentino has succeeded in enhancing its visibility not least due to its united approach on the refugee crisis and the debate on border protection measures at the Brenner Pass. However, the main focus shared by the regional partners remains on creating opportunities, establishing and building up cross-border friendships and relationships as well as maintaining these bonds in the long term. In this context, numerous activities have been launched with a focus on young people and include youth festivals as well as joint sports and summer camps. In January, the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region was successfully launched in Brdo. In 2018, Tyrol will take over the Presidency of EUSALP and plans to promote the implementation of macro-regional strategies under, and in close coordination with, the Austrian EU Presidency 2019.  

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