Austria to vote against Romania’s, Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen. When could Romania receive a definite date?

Deadlock at JHA: Germany opposes Croatia for Austria's opposing Romania, Bulgaria.

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Last-in: Journalist Jack Parrock, correspondent in Brussels, writes on Twitter that the ministers of Internal Affairs in the EU fail to find unanimity to agree on Schengen access for Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. Parrock also notes that member states’ JHA representatives are now splitting up for separate negotiations. “I heard that Germany and Luxembourg are threatening to block Croatia’s access to Schengen if the vetoes against Bulgaria and Romania are not lifted“, Jack Parrock tweeted.

 

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said on Thursday morning before the JHA Council that he would vote against the extension of the Schengen Area, reiterating Austria’s position in recent weeks.

Under these circumstances, Romania would receive the approval of the member states to enter Schengen in stages starting from 2023, on precise terms, accompanied by several conditions, official sources told G4Media. The conditionalities would concern measures to strengthen border control, but also a greater involvement of the European Commission through Frontex, and would be expressly requested by Austria. The political role of conditionalities is to offer a way out to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who until Wednesday was on an intransigent position of rejecting Romania’s accession to Schengen.

“I spoke earlier with my Romanian colleagues. I think Austria is jeopardizing its good reputation in Eastern Europe. Today I will vote against the extension of Schengen with Romania and Bulgaria. It is a mistake for a system that in many places does not work to be expanded. This year, in Austria, there were 100,000 illegal border crossings. Of these, 75,000 were not registered. It is proof that the system does not work”, Gerhard Karne told Austrian press, before the JHA meeting.

Later, Karner ignored the journalists from Romania, present in Brussels, who tried to ask him some questions. His statement was made just a few minutes before the start of the JHA Council, where the interior ministers of the member states will discuss the expansion of the Schengen Area with Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Croatia has a good chance of being admitted to Schengen today, being supported by all the states, while Austria votes against Romania, and Austria and the Netherlands voted against Bulgaria.

The Romanian Minister of the Interior, Lucian Bode, declared on Thursday morning, before attending the JAI Council, that his mandate is to request a debate and vote for Romania’s accession to the Schengen area. “We will accept any compromise in Romania’s interest”, said Bode. “We are entering the debate and vote with the joint accession proposal of Romania and Bulgaria. Depending on the option of each member state, through the interior ministers, things can evolve in one direction or another. My mandate is to support Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area and I am voting today. In the most optimistic scenario, by January 1st we are able to prepare the Schengen external border as required by all regulations in the field. If the draft decision on the agenda were to be adopted with the lifting of the land borders from January 1 and the air borders from March 26, Romania is ready to enter Schengen with the lifting of border controls as provided for in this decision”, said Bode.

The Romanian Interior Minister also mentioned the possibility of Romania’s file for Shengen being disconnected from the Bulgaria’s one.

“We started on this road together with Bulgaria, we were evaluated together with Bulgaria. We are in partnership with Bulgaria and in a good neighborly relationship. We want to enter together, but Romania’s interest is above all else. Romania must be a member of the Schengen Area from 2023. We will accept any compromise in Romania’s interest. Let’s see how things will evolve, what proposals will come. Romania’s mandate is firm”, Lucian Bode said.

SocDem MEP Victor Negrescu said in his turn that Romania has two compromise solutions in the case of Schengen accession.

“At the moment, the compromise solution regarding today’s vote in the JHA, towards which we are heading, is the decoupling from Bulgaria, which would give us the opportunity for Romania to join in the fall of 2023, somewhere in October – November. Another solution is for Romania and Bulgaria to notify the European Council and wait from there for a decision favorable to accession to the Schengen area. It is a good diplomatic option that Romania has because we have the support of the Czech presidency of the president of the European Council, but also the categorical support of Germany and France. In the European Council, you can discuss and negotiate,” Victor Negrescu told HotNews.ro.

EC, all the other countries support Romania

On the other hand, the European Commission leaders and representatives of all other EU countries voiced support for Romania’s joining Schengen now.

Romania brilliantly fulfilled all the necessary criteria and deserves to be admitted to the Schengen Area, declared one of the vice-presidents of the European Commission. Margaritis Schinas claims that the decision is strictly political, in the context in which the admission of our country would represent a gain for the EU bloc.

According to the EC official, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania are technically ready to join the Schengen Area.

“They did what we asked of them and even more than what we asked of them, they are ready. The few hesitations that still exist are political and undermine two very simple issues: the expansion of the Schengen Area makes us stronger, not weaker. Second, expanding the Schengen Area means better border control, not weaker. I hope common sense and open minds prevail and we have a decision if not today then in a few days. The three countries are ready to protect their external borders, they are ready to defend themselves against traffickers, to prevent illegal entry into the European Union, and it is unfair not to give them the opportunity they have earned and deserve,” Schinas  said.

Germany also supports the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia to the Schengen area, said Thursday, in Brussels, the German Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, upon arriving at the meeting of the Council of Justice and Internal Affairs of the EU.

“I cannot understand Austria’s position in this regard. I know that Austria has great internal debates on this matter,” Faeser told journalists before the meeting with his counterparts from the European Union. She added: “We will support Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, all three”.

In his turn, the French interior minister Gerald Darmanin spoke in favor of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria entering Schengen.

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