Austria’s Kurz aims to lift border controls to Switzerland by June

FILE PHOTO: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a news conference during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna, Austria

Austria aims to ease some border controls with Switzerland within days and to end all controls by June, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told Swiss broadcaster SRF on Tuesday, as countries push ahead with loosening COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are in a good exchange with the Swiss government,” Kurz told the broadcaster in an interview. “Our goal is that we can reach an agreement in coming days over a significant easing and that the border controls can be completely ended in June.”

Switzerland and Austria are among European countries that enacted border controls weeks ago, to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus. They have been moving to open some closed crossings in recent weeks and also ease migration restrictions as new infections and deaths waned.

Switzerland has about 30,400 confirmed infections and 1,561 deaths, while Austria reported about 16,000 infections and 600 fatalities.

Kurz said that declining infection rates in Switzerland and Austria “are developing similarly well,” creating an opening to relax the border limits. He said that Austria and Switzerland were moving ahead, while acknowledging regions including Bavaria in Germany had shown more reluctance.

“Both Switzerland and Austria are small, export-oriented countries that are well-connected internationally,” Kurz said. “It’s clear that the desire in our countries to open is perhaps stronger than elsewhere. Our goal is of course to solve the situation involving our larger border with Germany. Talks with Germany are going excellently. Expect a breakthrough there, too.”

European Union officials have warned that the bloc must go “back to the future” of open borders once the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control, after a spate of frontier closures by member states fraying its cohesion.

Switzerland is not in the EU, but has agreed to open borders to neighbors in normal times.

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