Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, said on Monday that Hungary will ask Austria to make border crossing more flexible and possibly faster for Hungarian commuters, after a meeting with lawmakers representing the electoral districts in the western border region.
As one of the European countries fighting to combat the current wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Austria last week tightened its border controls, which has put a significant burden on Hungarian workers commuting to the neighbouring country on almost a daily basis, Szijjártó said.
Under the new rules introduced on February 10, anyone wishing to enter Austria must register in advance. They must also present a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours, or be tested within 24 hours of their arrival in the country. The registration rule also applies to cross-border commuters who must also present a negative Covid-19 test no older than one week.
Szijjártó said that having reviewed the effects of the new border controls at Monday’s meeting, they had seen that the measures had caused “serious disruptions” on the first week of their implementation. It must be acknowledged, he said, that Austria had made great effort to minimise the disruptions, but commuters still face more difficulties than before border controls had been tightened.
He said one major problem was the long waiting time at border crossing points.
“We will therefore ask our Austrian colleagues to open up more lanes for vehicle traffic where possible during the morning and the evening hours and increase administrative staff to speed up entry on that side of the border,” Szijjártó said.
He called testing another major issue, noting that Hungarian contract workers have been in many instances required by their Austrian employer to travel to its testing spot far away from the border.
“This is why we are also going to ask Austria to allow the testing of Hungarian commuters at a spot near the border,” Szijjártó said, adding that he would hold consultations with the Austrian interior minister on the matter.
featured image illustration via István Filep/MTI