Vienna, November 17, 2023: In a surprising turn of events, President Alexander Van der Bellen of Austria publicly criticized his government’s decision to block the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area, labelling it as “wrong.”
The President’s remarks, reported by “Focus,” underscore a significant division within the Austrian leadership on a crucial European matter.
“When the federal government of Austria said no to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area, I made a public statement saying that I did not agree with my government’s decision,” President Van der Bellen declared.
He disagreed with the blockade, emphasizing the broader issue of managing people seeking work or asylum across the 27 EU countries.
The Austrian head of state criticized Chancellor Karl Nehammer, stating, “I find the decision of the Austrian federal government wrong, but I hope that one day it will be reconsidered.”
President Van der Bellen disclosed that he had engaged in discussions with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, expressing his belief that Austria’s veto was not the correct course of action.
Austria had justified its veto by emphasizing the necessity for a comprehensive reform of the Schengen area. The move faced criticism, with many arguing that it impeded the EU’s commitment to further integration and cooperation.
In October, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov visited Vienna to persuade Chancellor Nehammer to reconsider the veto.
However, the effort proved unsuccessful, with Austria maintaining its stance on the grounds of security concerns and the need for Schengen reform.
Chancellor Nehammer, at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Denkov, stated, “It is unthinkable for us at the moment to expand Schengen. I say that this has nothing to do with Bulgaria and Romania. This is a security matter because we have huge challenges in Schengen.”
He highlighted the internal border controls in 11 countries within the Schengen area, citing Austria’s control of the Austrian-German border, even though Austria is an interior country.
The rift within the Austrian government on the Schengen issue has broader implications for the country’s position within the European Union.
President Van der Bellen’s public disagreement with the government’s decision brings attention to the internal debates and challenges EU member states face in maintaining a united front on crucial policy matters.
The Schengen area, known for its passport-free travel among member countries, symbolizes European unity and collaboration.
Austria’s reluctance to allow Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen zone raises questions about the bloc’s ability to navigate internal differences and maintain its commitment to integration.
As the debate unfolds, the eyes of European leaders and citizens are on Austria, waiting to see if the government will reconsider its position in the face of domestic and international pressure.
The situation serves as a reminder that unity is not always guaranteed in the complex landscape of European politics, and divergent opinions within member states can shape the course of the EU’s future.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members