The Interior Minister passes the ball to the European Union: if the demands he made in the field of protecting the EU’s external borders are implemented, he will also agree to Air Schengen.
After the possible relaxation of the Austrian Schengen Area’s veto over Romania and Bulgaria, which became known over the weekend, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) believes that Brussels is now needed. He gave the European Commission “clear conditions” that must be implemented. Karner explained on Monday in the morning magazine “Ö1” that only then would he agree to lift the limits in air traffic, or the so-called “Air Schengen”. “It’s the committee’s turn now.”
“The important point is that we need to make progress in protecting the EU’s external borders,” Karner stressed. Specifically, he calls on the commission to triple the number of border police officers. Funds for border protection infrastructure must flow from the EU Commission. Technical upgrades are needed, especially on the Bulgarian-Turkish and Romanian-Serbian borders.
Karner also calls for tightening controls on land borders and accepting asylum seekers from Romania and Bulgaria, especially Afghans and Syrians. Karner justified the demand for permanent controls on the land borders with “a problem with smugglers.” The Interior Minister explained that out of just over 50,000 asylum applications in Austria, only slightly less than 150 migrants passed through airports.
On the future of Schengen
Karner will travel to Slovenia on Monday to discuss the future of the Schengen Area during a meeting with interior ministers, the so-called “Salzburg Forum.” On December 8 of the previous year, Austria prevented the expansion of the Schengen system of free borders to include Romania and Bulgaria, justifying this by the high number of asylum seekers. The Netherlands also opposed Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Area. In addition to Austria, Bulgaria and Romania, members of the Salzburg Forum also include Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. The Western Balkan countries and the Republic of Moldova are also represented. (Abba)
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