“I’m angry too”, Austria’s Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, answered, when asked about the Romanians’ anger that he blocked their access to the Schengen area. The Austrian official claimed that “the legal documents were put on the table practically overnight, without preparing the population for what it would mean”. Austria was the only EU state that opposed Romania’s accession, which has been thus waiting for 11 years to join the Schengen Area.
“I voted against the admission of Bulgaria and Romania because Schengen is not working at the moment. Otherwise, we would not have 75,000 unregistered migrants in Austria.And I suggested delaying accession and voting again in September, for example.After this phase you can say if something happened and if the measures announced by the European Commission were applied. Action is important,” argued the Austrian Minister of the Interior in an interview to Der Standard after the vote in the JHA Council.
When the journalist mentioned that only a small number of people who apply for asylum in Austria come through Romania, the majority arriving through Serbia and Hungary, and Romania is angry because of this approach of Austria, the Austrian Minister of the Interior replied: “I’m angry too. Namely, on the procedure, because the legal documents were put on the table practically overnight. For more than a decade it has been discussed that Schengen should be extended. And now it comes suddenly, without preparing the population for what it will bring: Is there more safety or are there pluses and minuses to risk?”.
Asked about the fact that he is alone in this effort to block Romania and Bulgaria, the Austrian minister claimed that the Czech Republic, for example, would have an interest in supporting the inclusion of the two states in Schengen because it holds the presidency of the EU Council and wants “to get results” in this mandate. “I think it is essential that effective measures to reduce illegal migration and asylum abuse are implemented now, for example that procedures at the external border are carried out in Bulgaria.”
He denied that his Government’s opposition was driven by his party’s electoral campaign for the January 29 regional elections: “There is no connection. We have the highest number of refugees since 1956. In fact, illegal migration (…). I can’t ignore that. (…) These things are facts and I have to deal with them as a minister”.
Asked about the fact that only a small proportion of people who applied for asylum in Austria were still accepted, with most going to other EU countries and thus not putting pressure on the domestic system, Karner replied: “But the police registered 100,000 people in border“.