©Health & Fitness Journal. FILE PHOTO: Cars queue at the Slovenian-Croatian border in Dragonja, Slovenia May 15, 2020 REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
By Gabriela Baczyńska
BRUSSELS (Health & Fitness Journal) – The Austria-led opposition is set to block Bulgaria and Romania from getting approval to join Europe’s control-free travel zone on Thursday, although its 26 member countries are expected to admit Croatia.
The so-called Schengen zone – a pact between countries to abolish border controls for travelers between their territories – is one of the outstanding achievements of European integration.
However, over the past decade it has come under increasing pressure as it limits the ability of its member states to control migration and effectively detect security threats.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said earlier this week Vienna was opposed to including Romania and Bulgaria in Schengen, a club made up of 22 European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
“We need more time. We currently have 75,000 unregistered illegal migrants in Austria – that means they crossed an external EU border and made it to Austria. That has to be solved first,” he said.
And this despite the fact that the European Commission has repeatedly told the EU executive that all three countries meet the necessary technical requirements, which have to do with border controls, data protection and visa policy, among other things.
A Romanian government source said Bucharest was committed to getting a decision in favor of enlargement at Thursday’s meeting of interior ministers in Brussels.
“Austria is completely isolated on a European level. We will not stop until we have exhausted all avenues for action on this issue,” the source said.
The Netherlands is siding with Austria by opposing the granting of access to Bulgaria, with The Hague citing concerns about governance and migration.
With all member countries having to agree for a candidate country to join Schengen, Romania and Bulgaria experienced disappointment on Thursday.
“Croatia can count on a positive decision, but Romania and in particular Buglaria will not be able to join Schengen yet,” said an EU diplomat. “They will be suspended for at least another six months to a year before we can deal with the subject again.”