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Romania announces its agreement regarding the Schengen dispute with Austria…

Romania announces its agreement regarding the Schengen dispute with Austria…

According to Bucharest, Romania and Bulgaria will gradually join the Schengen system, and border controls on air traffic and freight are scheduled to be abolished as early as March. The Vienna Interior Ministry insists on the terms of the ongoing negotiations.

Romania, Bulgaria and Austria have reached a “political agreement” on expanding the Schengen area, according to the governments of Bucharest and Sofia. Accordingly, Bulgaria and Romania will apply the Schengen Law to their air and sea borders from March 2024, the Romanian Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday. The Vienna Interior Ministry said only on Thursday that negotiations were currently continuing.

The Austrian conditions for obtaining “Air Schengen” are an increase in Frontex operations in Bulgaria and funds provided by the European Union Commission to provide strong protection of external borders. The Vienna Interior Ministry also said there were calls for increased controls at land borders and for asylum seekers, especially from Afghanistan and Syria, to be received into Romania and Bulgaria.

“Air Schengen” yes, “Schengen land” no

At the beginning of December, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner offered the possibility of abolishing the Schengen borders for air traffic with Bulgaria and Romania if there were stricter border controls in return. “Schengen-Air” means that travelers from Romania and Bulgaria will no longer have to travel to Europe via international terminals; Their passports will be checked by the airlines at the gate as usual. The Austrian Ministry of the Interior confirmed, on Thursday, that there are currently no negotiations and therefore no date regarding joining the “Schengen State.”

The agreement was reached on 23 December between the Interior Ministries of Vienna, Sofia and Bucharest, and was then discussed through diplomatic channels, at the level of Foreign Ministries and EU Representations so that it could be legally incorporated into the decisions of the Committee of Permanent Representatives. (COREPER) The Romanian Ministry of the Interior followed. Accordingly, negotiations on full membership in the Schengen Area should continue “at full speed” next year, taking into account Austria's demands for increased external border protection and the Dublin III Regulation.

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The Ministry of Interior defines “constructive discussions”

In its broadcast, the Bucharest Interior Ministry thanked both the European Commission and the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union as well as the Interior Ministries of Vienna and Sofia for the “constructive discussions” that ultimately made this agreement possible. According to the official Agerpres agency, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs added: The agreement was reached on December 23 at the level of the foreign offices of Austria, Romania and Bulgaria. On December 26 and 27, discussions took place through diplomatic channels between the three ministries of interior, the three ministries of foreign affairs, and the three countries’ representations to the European Union in Brussels. The matter was about drafts of how to legally incorporate the political agreement into the Council's decision. She added, “Discussions on this matter will continue on December 28.”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said on Thursday that Austria is committed to continuing ground negotiations on Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the Schengen Free Zone. Dinkov said, according to the Bulgarian news agency BTA, that after complex negotiations, the two countries reached a basic agreement with Austria regarding joining the Schengen Area by air and sea. Dinko added that these negotiations will be accompanied by significant support from the European Commission to protect the European Union's external borders with Turkey and Serbia and thus limit the flow of illegal immigrants to Europe.

Romanian Prime Minister celebrates the “political agreement”

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciulacu wrote in a Facebook post: “After 13 years, Romania finally becomes a member of the Schengen Area!” We have a political agreement! From March next year, Romanians will benefit from the advantages of the Schengen Area in the air and at sea.” Ciulacu stressed that the Black Sea port of Constanta in particular would gain importance as a result. Socialist Ciulacu was “convinced” that an agreement would also be reached with Austria on Land borders in 2024.

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Meanwhile, the head of the Austrian Freedom Party delegation in the European Parliament, Harald Willemski, described the agreement between Romania, Bulgaria and Austria on expanding the Schengen area for both countries as a “wrong and unstable decision.” “What is being sold to people as ‘gradual accession to Schengen’ is nothing but opening another door to unbridled illegal immigration to Austria and thus poses a clear security risk to our country,” Velimski commented on the agreement. Velimski said this decision would lead to further loss of control and provide more opportunities for smugglers and illegal immigrants to make their way to Austria.

ÖVP accuses FPÖ of spreading “lies”.

“The Austrian Freedom Party is once again spreading lies on the Schengen issue. The Schengen borders will only be opened when reliable protection of the external borders is guaranteed,” replied Christian Stocker, Secretary General of the ÖVP. This is the firm position of the Austrian Federal Government, and has been reiterated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Austrian Freedom Party. “It is sad that the Austrian Freedom Party only responds to the successful reduction in the number of asylum seekers and the paradigm shift in European asylum law with lies,” Stocker continued. “As everyone has noted, except for the honorable member Velimski, the ÖVP Secretary General said, “The smugglers' routes to Austria do not pass by air, but rather through land borders, which are still under control.”

SPÖ foreign policy spokeswoman Petra Bayer described the agreement between Austria, Romania and Bulgaria to implement the Schengen Agreement by air and sea from March as “maximum comfort for managers.” “Nurses from Romania and Bulgaria coming to Austria do not come by plane, but by land. We urgently need relief especially for these important skilled workers – for their own sake and for the benefit of the people who need care in Austria,” said Beyer. The SPÖ national council member further stressed that The government does not take into account the needs and concerns of Austrians, otherwise it would not place enormous obstacles in front of caregivers.(APA)

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