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Austria softens on Romania, Bulgaria in Schengen

| 2023-12-11 < 1 min read

Austria softens on Romania, Bulgaria in Schengen

Reading Time: < 1 minute

In recent months, Austria’s stance on Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen Area accession has been shifting, particularly in terms of air travel.

Now Austria has proposed a conditional easing of its stance via “Air Schengen,” an initiative that would allow passport-free air travel for these two countries while maintaining land border checks.

Karner softens Schengen stance

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner has in the past openly opposed Romanian and Bulgaria’s full Schengen membership but now appears open to easing travel restrictions for air passengers within the EU, despite ongoing reservations over illegal immigration.

Austria has set four conditions for Romania and Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen Zone, primarily focused on air travel: a tripling of Frontex staff in Bulgaria, supported financially by the EU for border infrastructure; enhanced surveillance at relevant borders, including the Hungary-Romania one; the deployment of Austrian document experts to assist airport staff in Romania and Bulgaria; and arrangements for hosting in Romania and Bulgaria asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan and Syria.

Denkov bullish, Ciolacu upbeat

Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said he felt Bulgaria is being “held hostage” as it has fulfilled all of the EU criteria to join the border-free travel zone, but is still vetoed by certain members, like Austria, whose actual problem is Schengen’s general operations.

“This is more like the discussion between Austria and the EU, that I’d rather have, than between Bulgaria and Austria. We are the victims of this situation…I hope that there will be a positive development in December,” Denkov told Euronews,

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu has expressed optimism about the development, interpreting it as a significant step towards Schengen integration for Romania. Ciolacu, who has previously indicated a willingness to go legal against Austria’s veto, wrote “We broke the ice!” on Facebook.