Austria Bans Tourists From Driving On Country Roads

Germany and Italy are preparing to sue Austria for banning foreign drivers from using the country’s provincial roads instead forcing them to only drive on toll motorways.

German Traffic Minister Andreas Scheuer and his Italian counterpart Danilo Toninelli announced their intention in a letter sent to the European Commission.

The ministers criticised the new ‘motorway bypass ban’ introduced on weekends in the mountainous Austrian state of Tyrol.

The ban forbids drivers from leaving the motorway when they encounter a traffic jam and taking alternative routes on provincial roads.

The measure was introduced to ease traffic in Tyrolean villages as country roads are commonly used by long-distance travellers such as lorry drivers and holidaymakers on their way from Germany to Italy, especially when the motorways are congested.

Traffic Minister Scheuer said: “The free movement of European goods is severely hampered by the Tyrolean blockade and violates EU law.

“That is why, together with my Italian counterpart, I have called on the EU Commission to take immediate action and stop this systematic blockade of Tyrol. My ministry is preparing a lawsuit against Austria and the Italians will do the same.”

The European Commission announced that it would try to mediate with the EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc and the German, Italian and Austrian ministers involved in the dispute, according to reports.

During the summer months, traffic jams are common on Tyrolean roads such as the motorway through the Brenner Pass which connects the south-eastern German state of Bavaria and the Austrian state of Tyrol with northern Italy.

Country roads are also popular with drivers looking to avoid paying tolls on Austrian motorways, with the cheapest 10-day vignette costing 9.20 EUR (8.20 GBP) for cars.

Austria and Germany have been at loggerheads over their road networks before.

When Germany planned to introduce a motorway toll on the country’s famed Autobahn network, Austria and the Netherlands went to the European Court of Justice to complain about the ban.

They cited the proposal as discriminatory because German drivers were compensated in a tax break while foreign drivers had to pay the full amount.

Last month, Europe’s highest court ruled that the proposal would unlawfully discriminate foreign drivers, forcing Berlin to rethink the measure.

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Story By: Koen BerghuisSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News

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