The European Commission’s response about the traffic disruptions at Brenner corridor

The European Parliament asked the European Commission about the restrictions on the free movement of commercial vehicles in transit through Austria and Germany.

The Commission communication of 19 January 2021 recognises that the protection of the internal market and its smooth functioning are the cornerstone of the European response to the pandemic; it therefore rejects the hypothetical correlation between free movement and the spread of the virus and specifies that any mobility restrictions decided on by national governments should be ‘proportionate and non-discriminatory’, in keeping with the Council Recommendation of October 2020.

However, on 15 February 2021 some new restrictions on the transit of commercial vehicles through Austria and Germany entered into force, with the requirement to produce a negative swab test carried out within 48 hours of arrival at the border. The new provisions have led to serious traffic disruptions, including the immediate formation of tailbacks at the Brenner Pass.

Those measures, moreover, come on top of the pre-existing restrictions to the movement of heavy goods vehicles adopted through Tyrol by-law No 81/2019, the compatibility of which with EU law is already being considered by the Commission.

In light of the above, can the Commission answer the following questions:

  • Can it confirm whether the new restrictions described above infringe the proportionality criterion set out in its communication?
  • Does it acknowledge that such measures are likely to exacerbate the economic losses already incurred by the businesses affected by By-law No 81/2019?
  • How does it intend to restore the functioning of the internal market?

Answer given by Ms Vălean on behalf of the European Commission

While the measures introduced by Germany and Austria aim at protecting public health and avoiding congestion in Austria due to tailbacks caused by the German requirement for lorry drivers to have a negative COVID-19 test result when crossing the border, they have had a significant negative impact on the free movement of goods and transport on the Brenner corridor. The proportionality of the implemented measures is questionable in view of the January 2021 Communication and the Council Recommendation 2020/1475 (1), which accepts testing of transport workers if it does not lead to transport disruptions. While the two texts are not legally binding, the Commission is urging the Member States concerned to align to the Recommendation.

Besides the temporary measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, the Commission has been carefully following measures affecting the free movement across the Brenner corridor. The tightening of the sectoral driving ban on the A12 motorway at the beginning of 2020 due to Decree No 81/2019 of the Governor of Tyrol is affecting operators, but its impact is declining.

The Commission is working with the Member States concerned to find mutually beneficial solutions to ensure the functioning of the internal market. The Commission is closely monitoring the situation and will take further appropriate action if required.