EU Commissioner nods to Slovenian MEPs on Austria’s border checks

Brussels – European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has responded to a public letter from five Slovenian MEPs on Austria’s decision to extend controls at the border with Slovenia, according to a document received by the STA. In her reply, she agreed with the EU court that such checks can only be a measure of last resort.

“I fully agree with the court’s decision that border control should be a measure of last resort and should be introduced for a limited period of time, in accordance with secondary legislation,” Johansson said in her reply on Monday, referring to an April ruling by the EU court that checks at the internal borders of Schengen area countries should not exceed six months.

She noted that the European Commission encouraged member states to respond to potential migration threats using other measures, such as proportional police controls or international police cooperation.

The European commissioner is confident that a solution can be found together to ensure the right balance between freedom of movement and a high level of security in the EU. She is determined to assess all options to reinstate an area without border checks among Schengen countries.

Five Slovenian MEPs sent the letter to Austria and the European Commission in mid-May to criticise the decision of Austria to again extend controls on the Slovenia-Austria border.

Irena Joveva, Klemen Grošelj (both Renew/LMŠ), Milan Brglez (S&D/SD), Ljudmila Novak (EPP/NSi) and Franc Bogovič (EPP/SLS) found the move to be unjustified and disproportionate. They argued that this was confirmed by the valid EU law and the EU court’s decision.

Earlier this month, the Regional Administrative Court in Austria’s Styria found that Austria had carried out illegal border controls. It also referred the case to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Austria implemented border controls from November 2017 until mid-May 2022, citing the terrorist threat as the reason. As of 12 May, a new reason for controls came into force – the threat of arms smuggling from Ukraine, which is why the country continues to control its borders with Slovenia as well as with Hungary.