Monday, October 26, 2015

German Border Controls

This past weekend, I could become familiar with the German border controls which had been announced a few weeks ago, and it was an interesting experience.

The major refugee route is from Salzburg to Munich. Train service between Salzburg-Munich had been stopped entirely a few weeks ago and, since last weekend, only 'special trains' resumed service. Thus, it is the Autobahn Salzburg-Munich which most of the refugees focus on.

Before anything else, one has to bear in mind that the Salzburg-Munich stretch is no less than one of the most important North-South connections in Central Europe!

I have driven the Salzburg-Munich stretch hundreds of times in my life. I remember the 1960s and 1970s when there were fully-fledged border controls just a few Km West of Salzburg; on a hill called the Walserberg. Walserberg had become known as the dividing line between modern Germany and backward Austria in the post-war era. The Austrians may have been backward relative to Germany but they were smart enough to recognize business opportunities which the Germans did not see: on the Austrian side of Walserberg, a rather sizeable brothel was established. On April 1, 1998, Walserberg lost much its significance because the Schengen Treaty became operative. The brothel still exists to this day!

About 3 Km before we reached Walserberg, traffic came to a halt; a complete halt at first which then turned into a very slow stop-and-go traffic. My initial thought was that of a big accident but then I remembered the border controls. When we finally approached Walserberg, I looked forward to showing our papers and to moving on more speedily on the German side. However, there were no controls on Walserberg, at the border, that is! And stop-and-go traffic continued.

About 3 Km beyond Walserberg, that is on the German side, there is a gas station. They had built up a rather sizeable control operation around that station. However, that was no longer a border control where one could prevent people from entering the country. People can only be prevented from entering the country at the border. Once they are inside Germany, they can be arrested for illegally entering the country. Alternatively, they must be let go.

Essentially, the purpose of that boder control station was to get some semblance of order into the chaotic situation. To register arrivals and to move them on to places where they could stay. A true welcoming exercise and not a rejection exercise.

All told, the new border controls cost me close to 1 hour of delay. Even during the worst traffic times of the 1960s and 1970s, I rarely lost 1 hour crossing the border. Since 1998, I thought of Walserberg as the place where one has to slow down to 80 Km/h (or come to a full stop if one wants to visit the brothel...) but no more than that. And now it seems that we are going back in time.

Fortunately, I no longer have to travel the Salzburg-Munich stretch very often. If I still had to travel it as often as during my active professional time, and if had to sacrifice 1 hour every time I travelled, I am afraid I would rather quickly build up frustration about how the refugee situation is being handled by politicians.

1 comment:

  1. I like your humor. ;) in this case the expertise of Austrians to recognize a business opportunity, if it is right in front of their eyes.

    concerning: "Germany and backward Austria". While wondering about basic assumption about countries I stumbled among other things about statistics that suggested that Austria seems to be better off then us Germans. ;) I did notice your more indirect comment on the issue recently.

    But on a more general note. You are late to this Autobahn experience. A sister visiting something we call "Hausmesse", or an Austrian customer's in-house fair, about two month ago, had time-wise a worse experience. Not that she bothered much, but she and her colleague simply decided to not return home in the same night somewhere in the Bodensee region.

    A lot of people seem to reach Bavaria by now not via the Bundesbahn, but at night, by foot via a different route . From Salzburg? to Passau That seems to suggest Vienna - Passau.