The European Union is paving the way for the possible entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen Area

The European Union is paving the way for the possible entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen Area

While the European Union has granted candidate status to Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria could also move closer to entering the Schengen area. Because Austria, which used its veto a year ago, showed on Monday, December 11, that it was willing to soften its position. But Vienna sets its terms.

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From our correspondent in Bucharest. Benjamin Ribot

this ” A step forward » For Romania and Bulgaria, especially in light of the cold rains that the two countries received in December 2022 Austria objected to their entry In the Schengen area. Since then, it has been the status quo.

This same Austria is now considering giving the green light to cancel this article Bulgarian and Romanian passport controls. But this will be strictly limited to airports: we are now talking about “ Schengen Airlines “.

In return, Austria sets its conditions: tripling the number of officers of the European Border Guard Agency (Frontex) in Bulgaria, and more controls between Bulgaria and Romania, as well as between Hungary and Romania. Vienna also calls on the two countries to shelter Afghan and Syrian refugees in Austria… after they pass through Bulgaria or Romania.

The development of the Austrian position towards Romania can be explained in several ways. Bucharest has proven to be a valuable strategic partner for the European Union and the United States in the world Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Hence the support for both in the Schengen file. Then there was the Romanian lobby, especially from business circles, which knew how to use economic influence.

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Austria is one of the main foreign investors in Romania. However, after Vienna’s veto a year ago, public demands for a boycott flourished: enough to tarnish the image of Austrian companies.

There is another major issue: the gas in the Black Sea that the Austrian company OMV-Petrom wants to exploit. It is a powerful political tool that Bucharest used there as well.

People carry placards during a protest by the liberal Neues party in front of the Austrian Interior Ministry building in Vienna, Austria, December 4, 2023, on the eve of the European Union Council of Interior Ministers in Brussels. © Joe Klamar/AFP

Schengen Airlines » Not suitable for Bucharest

suggestion ” Schengen Airlines » It does not satisfy Romania, a priori, because it will not make it an official member of the Schengen Area and will not put an end to the endless waiting of land transport companies at the border, which hampers the Romanian economy.

Bucharest has been struggling for more than a decade to integrate the Schengen Area, an important goal for the country. Brussels may repeat that it meets all the requirements, but its fate seems to depend on the good faith of the Austrian government, which is focused on the security of its borders.

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The Romanian executive welcomed Vienna’s proposal politely, but this announcement was met in a very mixed manner. Especially since the currency of exchange – migrants, among others – is a sensitive topic for the government, which undoubtedly fears that this will fuel xenophobic and anti-European rhetoric among its political opponents.

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While 2024 will be a busy election year in Romania, it remains to be seen how the executive will handle this choice. From there, whether or not to enter into this will also depend.” Schengen Airlines “For next spring.

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