Austria Resists EU Call to Include Bulgaria and Romania in Schengen Zone

Ursula von der Leyen speaking to MEPs.
Ursula von der Leyen, 2019. Photo: EP. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019

Austria remains steadfast in its refusal to allow Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen visa-free zone, despite a recent public appeal from Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

Bulgarian Novinite – Sofia News Agency calls the move a “middle finger” from Austria in a recent news article, saying there was no more point in expanding the Schengen zone.

In her recent EU State of the Union address, von der Leyen urged Austria to reconsider its veto, emphasizing the readiness of the two Eastern European nations. She highlighted their exemplary practices in asylum and repatriation, urging, “Let’s finally let them go – without further delay.”

However, Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner voiced concerns over the rising number of migrants in Europe. He pointed to discussions of increased border controls in various European countries, such as between Germany and Poland. “At this point, for me, it makes no sense to talk about expanding Schengen. We need more control, not less,” Karner remarked.

Austria’s primary apprehension stems from fears of a surge in illegal migrants. The government contends that Bulgaria and Romania might not effectively manage their borders, which would become the Schengen’s external frontiers upon their inclusion in the area.

Yet, within Austria, not everyone agrees with the government’s stance. The liberal NEOS party, currently in opposition, has criticized the veto. NEOS MEP Claudia Gammon, responding to von der Leyen’s speech, called on the Austrian federal government to abandon its “anti-European veto.”

The Schengen Area, a cornerstone of European unity, allows passport-free travel across most of the continent. The inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania has been a contentious issue, reflecting broader debates on migration and border security within the EU.


Image source: EP

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