Romania’s Struggle for Schengen Area Access: A Battle Against Austrian Opposition
An Ongoing Challenge
Romania has been in a continuous struggle to gain access to the Schengen Area, facing staunch opposition from Austria. Romania’s Prime Minister, Marcel Ciolacu, has expressed his willingness to take Austria to the EU’s top court if it continues to block Romania’s entry into the EU’s free travel zone. This move is seen as a response to the alleged unjustified use of veto power by Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. Ciolacu has also indicated that Romania might seek compensation for the financial losses caused by this non-accession, which is estimated to amount to at least 2% of Romania’s GDP.
Austria’s opposition to Romania’s admission into the Schengen Area is primarily based on concerns over migration along the Western Balkan route. Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has stated that about 20% of those coming to Austria cross Romanian territory, raising concerns about migration control. Despite these claims, Ciolacu has denied increased migration through Romania, stating that the country has introduced joint border controls with Serbia to manage this issue. Austria’s decision to veto Romania’s accession has set a precedent, as member states generally follow the recommendations of the EU institutions.
Support for Romania’s Bid
Despite Austria’s opposition, Romania has received support from several quarters. In a recent State of the Union address, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Romania and Bulgaria for their approach to asylum and returns, asserting that they should be part of the Schengen Area. Similarly, EU lawmakers have called on the Council of the EU to admit both nations, and have asked the Commission to consider compensating them for the losses incurred due to the denial of Schengen Area membership.
The Economic Impact
The delay in Romania’s Schengen membership has had significant economic implications. Romania’s National Union of Road Hauliers (UNTRR) has highlighted that the stalled membership has led to unacceptable queues on the border, dealing a strong blow to the economy. Despite the economic impact and the potential lawsuit, the Austrian authorities remain firm in their stance, insisting that there is no point in expanding the Schengen system until it works efficiently.
Fighting the Opposition
Despite the opposition, Romania is not backing down. The Romanian Prime Minister has tasked his ministers with developing a plan to persuade Austria to lift its veto on Romania’s Schengen admission. In the face of Austria’s concerns about migration, Romania has been actively involved in fighting irregular migration at both the bilateral and EU level, aiming to demonstrate that it is part of the solution, not the problem. The country aims to join the Schengen Area by 2023.
Looking Towards the Future
As Romania continues to struggle for access to the Schengen Area, it is clear that the road ahead is challenging, but not insurmountable. With continued efforts to address Austria’s concerns and garner support from other European leaders, Romania remains optimistic about its chances of joining the Schengen Area in the near future. The battle is far from over, and the outcome of this struggle could have significant implications for Romania’s status in the EU and its relationship with Austria.
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