In end-December, the Austrian vice-chancellor, Werner Kogler, said that Hungary should be kicked out of the Schengen zone, following the logic of the Austrian Interior Minister. Kogler highlighted that most unregistered crossings (mostly illegal migrants) into Austria come from Hungary. Now, an Austrian mayor talks about the importance of reinstating strict border control on the Austrian-Hungarian border. Is this the end of Schengen for Hungary?
According to rtl.hu, it is not always beneficial if the EU pays for asphalting a road connecting two settlements on the different sides of a Schengen border. That is what happened between Somfalva ( Schattendorf, Austria) and Sopron/Ágfalva in Hungary in the 2010s. The former dirt road transformed into a brand new asphalted one resulting in a drastic rise in traffic.
Theoretically, you are forbidden to use the new road on weekdays between 5 and 8 AM and 4 and 7 PM. That is the peak time for Hungarian commuters going to work in Austria and coming home. However, not everybody sticks to the rules. And despite the Austrian army is being stationed near the border crossing, they cannot sanction the commuters.
And the volume of traffic is ever-increasing. That is because everybody uses the road, who goes to work in the direction of Nagymarton (Mattersburg) or Bécsújhely (Wiener Neustadt) in Austria from Sopron and the neighbouring Hungarian villages. The other option would be a 30-minute-long turnout towards the Klingenbach/Sopron border station. Thus, it is understandable that everybody chooses the new road despite the ban.
ORF, Austria’s national broadcaster, talks about 4,000 commuters there even though Thomas Hoffmann (SPÖ, Austrian Socialists) introduced the previously mentioned travel restriction in 2015. He aimed to reduce the traffic in his small village. Therefore, he wants to build a barrier and put out CCTV cameras. The latter would be able to read license plates, and the barrier would only open if the car owner had permission to cross the border. Mr Hoffmann would only issue such permits to the residents of Ágfalva and Somfalva, the two small Hungarian villages near the border.
However, the Austrian interior ministry did not give a green light, and another turn of negotiations will take place on 20 January.
The mayor said he would put concrete blocks and columns to block the road from 1 March if he cannot construct the barrier. He highlighted that he needed to protect the village residents living near the country’s busiest minor road.
In the previous weeks, two traffic accidents happened. Cars hit a cyclist and a 90-year-old pedestrian. Meanwhile, the road is not wide enough to create two lanes.
Some commuters found a solution to evade the mayor’s ban legally. They let their car on the Hungarian side of the border, walk to Austria and jump into their company vehicle there. Therefore, Mr Hoffmann would like to extend the village’s short-term parking zone. The regional governor’s office said they supported the mayor’s ambitious plans to keep the region’s traffic increase at bay.