Hundreds protest border closure between Austria and Italy and demand a border-free Europe
Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police yesterday at the Brenner Pass in the Alps that connects Austria with Italy. The demonstrators were mostly young left-wing radicals from Italy who attempted to cross the border, which Austria is preparing to establish checkpoints at to stop any eventual flow of migrants into the country.
Agence France-Presse reports that police used teargas against the demonstrators. Those protesting carried banners calling for the borders to be abolished, since they have actually never been in operation between the two countries, which are both members of the Schengen Zone.
A group of demonstrators occupied the railway station for a while in the municipality of Brenner and began throwing rocks and smoke bombs at police, who responded with tear gas. After managing to push the protesters out of the train station and onto the road, police also deployed water cannon.
Italian news agency AGI reports two police officers were injured and several demonstrators have been arrested. Austria is planning, during the month of May, to open five checkpoints in Brenner and to erect a 370-meter-long fence.
In addition to those traveling the busy highway, police are also prepared to monitor traffic on a parallel expressway and on the railways. The exact date on which the checkpoints will launch has not been announced.
Italy disagrees with the planned measures and considers them to violate the principle of freedom of movement. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the measures a "political catastrophe" and said he believes blocking important European traffic connections and crossroads between northern and southern Europe would have not just serious economic consequences, but also a weighty political impact.
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