Austria and Switzerland close their borders with Italy and negotiate to let visitors into their areas – but some places need more time
Italians have been stranded on their side of the Alps as Austrian and Swiss forces put Alpine countries into lockdown, with a few EU countries.
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A Europe-wide row erupted in July when a demand for tariffs in trade between Italy and its eastern European neighbours – including Austria and Switzerland – was proposed. Italy sought to freeze food imports from Romania and Bulgaria.
That led to the border between Italy and Austria being shut for a day, leaving 7,000 Italians stuck in the largest town in the sector, Alpe d’Huez.
Austria’s state railway company said it had introduced restrictions on trains between Innsbruck and Innsbruck on Sunday night, bringing traffic to a near standstill.
Travellers at Obertino, one of the border crossings, reported seeing Italian police among travellers from the other side as they waited for the next stop.
Italy has tried to exempt Austria from imposing trade tariffs, a move the Swiss have blocked on humanitarian grounds.
“I don’t understand why the Swiss are charging us so much,” said Alessandro Tardini, from Italy’s north-east city of Genoa, after crossing the border.
“This is terrible. How can Switzerland charge us for water? The Italian people have been so nice to us, they let us cross the border by road every day. But now we are being asked to pay 40 euros for a bottle of water.”
Austria’s government announced on Friday that it was sending troops to the border after tourists held a rowdy protest at Obertino over the road conditions.
Hungary allows EU tourists into the country by road if they are travelling from Switzerland or Austria. The country has also said it is willing to negotiate with EU countries, including Italy, that will start charging tariffs to prevent border closures and increase returns of foreigners believed to be holidaying illegally.
Some rest stops on the Italy-Austria road were still open on Saturday, while buses were still running in both directions in Italy.