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Austria Disregarding Schengen: An Iron Curtain Descends around Sopron

Hungary Today 2023.03.02.

The situation at the Austrian-Hungarian border in Burgenland continues to come to a head. People traveling from Hungary are particularly affected, including commuters from Sopron (Ödenburg) to Austria.

On Tuesday, commuter traffic was restricted in the border area of Sankt Margarethen (Szentmargitbánya), and from Wednesday it will no longer be possible to drive to Austria via Schattendorf (Somfalva), as construction work for a pedestrian zone has begun there. This means that thousands of Hungarian commuters will have to take a detour every day. The mayor of Sopron, Ciprián Farkas, has written an open letter to the Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, on behalf of the workers of Sopron.

Commuter traffic from Hungary to Austria is a challenge for many Burgenland border communities, according to Austrian officials. A number of measures have been taken recently to reduce through-traffic in the villages, representatives of the communities concerned said. In Schattendorf (Somfalva), the only road leading to the border became a pedestrian zone on March 1, while commuter traffic has also been restricted in St. Margarethen (Szentmargitbánya) since Feb. 28. These measures are causing a stir on both sides of the border.


On Wednesday, the Schattendorf (Somfalva) – Ágfalva (Agendorf) border crossing, used daily by thousands of Hungarian commuters, was closed to vehicles. It will now be completely closed for three months, after which only people from Schattendorf and Ágfalva will be able to cross the border, and who will have to buy a permit for 160 euros. “We would like to reimburse this in the form of vouchers,” stressed Thomas Hoffmann, SPÖ mayor of Schattendorf. The politician also promised to examine how not only locals, but also commuters to Schattendorf and residents of the neighboring municipalities of Loipersbach (Lépesfalva) and Baumgarten (Sopronkertes) can be included in the exceptions.

Since Tuesday, commuter traffic in the area of St. Margarethen (Szentmargitbánya) has also been restricted. Only those who travel from the Austrian side of the border to Rust, St. Margarethen and the surrounding towns of Mörbisch am See (Fertőmeggyes), Oggau (Oka), Oslip (Oszlop), Schützen am Gebirge (Sérc) are allowed to use the road to Hungary. According to Heinrich Dorner, SPÖ regional transport councilor in the regional government, the traffic from St. Margarethen to Eisenstadt (Kismarton) had to be reduced to one third of the current level. The restriction is also intended to shift commuter traffic to other roads, the regional councilor told ORF Burgenland.

Map: openstreetmap.org

Both decisions primarily affect the people in and around Sopron, and the mayor of the Hungarian city, Ciprián Farkas, is perplexed by what is happening. Speaking to ORF, the mayor said that the congestion of Burgenland’s municipalities was only a pretext for the closures, which are not only detrimental to commuters from Hungary, but also contradict the idea of the Schengen border system.

Austria has acted in an incomprehensible, unfair, unfriendly, and unpredictable way at these small border crossings,”

said Farkas.

“Austria needs Hungarian guest workers- this has been emphasized many times and in many places,” he said. “We can talk about traffic restrictions here, but basically a border closure has taken place, as very few people are allowed to cross these borders legally,” the mayor added.

Neither the city of Sopron nor the Hungarian police have received any information about what will happen at the Hungarian borders,”

he said. “We are powerless because it is an Austrian measure on Austrian territory, so we can only report the problem.” The mayor of Sopron believes that it is Austria that is making the increasing traffic in the settlements worse by refusing to implement transport infrastructure improvements, such as the construction of the Hungarian M85 freeway link to the A3 freeway.

Farkas has appealed to Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, to contact his Austrian counterpart in order to resolve the situation.

This region forms a unity, both historically and economically (…) I am convinced that these measures also violate the fundamental freedoms of the European Union, namely the fundamental right to free movement and free movement of workers,”

wrote the mayor in his open letter.

Hungary Today has also contacted the Province of Burgenland on this matter, but has not received a response as of the publication of this article.

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Reporting by Enikő Enzsöl. Via Ungarn Heute and cyberpress.hu, Featured Photo: Facebook Ciprián Farkas

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