By Cole Sinanian •
Published: 10 Dec 2023 • 15:56
Schengen Visa. MA8/shutterstock
DESPITE Austria’s veto on Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU’s Schengen Region due to immigration concerns, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner has expressed willingness to ease air-travel restrictions for Romanians and Bulgarians within the EU, reports Austrian outlet OE24.
Though Romania and Bulgaria would still not be Schengen member countries, under the proposed plan travellers would be able to fly as if they were citizens of Schengen countries, that is, without having to pass through passport controls. However, land border crossing would still be restricted.
The administration of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has kept immigration at the top of his policy agenda. After EU member states approved Croatia as the newest member of the Schengen Area in a landmark decision last year, Austria and the Netherlands have blocked Romania and Bulgaria’s entries for what Chancellor Nehammer has described as their failure to prevent tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from crossing their borders, reports Bloomberg.
Interior Minister Karner said that the loosening of restrictions on air travel for Austria’s eastern neighbours would be contingent on the tripling of EU funding to help control immigration, and both countries’ acceptance of extradited asylum seekers. The proposal would need approval from all EU member states if it were to go into effect.
Karner and his counterparts will iron-out the details of the proposal next week in Slovenia at the Salzburg Forum, the meeting of a Central European security partnership between Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Austria has historically positioned itself as both a physical and diplomatic bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. In 2022 there were 138,000 Romanians living in Austria, the second-highest foreign population, beaten only by Germans.
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