No Change in Austria’s Position on the Admission of Bulgaria in Schengen, Vienna promised EU Funding for our Border
There is no change in Austria's position on the enlargement of the Schengen area. This became clear after the visit of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer to the Bulgarian-Turkish border near Elhovo.
Austria will support Bulgaria’s request for 2 billion, in front of the European Commission, to strengthen the security of our border.
Nehammer is visiting Bulgaria at the invitation of President Rumen Radev. The two met at the border near Elhovo with the measures taken to protect the EU's external border with Turkey.
Rumen Radev and Karl Nehammer also visited the Regional Directorate "Border Police" in Elhovo, where the Regional Coordination Center is located, part of the Integrated Monitoring System of the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
After getting acquainted with the way in which the Bulgarian-Turkish border is guarded, Karl Nehammer thanked for the efforts that Bulgaria is making in this area, because "the protection of the Bulgarian-Turkish border is actually also the protection of the border of Austria".
Nehammer stressed that a European-wide effort is needed to deal with the migrant pressure, including aid to the frontline countries. Therefore, Austria will support before the EC the 2 billion euros requested by Bulgaria for the purchase of more technical equipment, helicopters, off-road vehicles and the improvement of the infrastructure in the border area.
"I want to express my deepest condolences to the relatives of the Bulgarian border policemen who lost their lives in the line of duty. The protection of the Bulgarian-Turkish border is actually also the protection of the border of Austria. That is why we are extremely grateful for the efforts that Bulgaria is laying down. We had the opportunity to see what challenges the protection of this border represents. Austria supports Bulgaria's efforts and Bulgaria's desire to strengthen and strengthen the border, and therefore we will advocate before the EC that these 2 billion euros be granted," he pointed out.
Despite the efforts that our country is making, however, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen, according to Nehammer, should happen only after border protection is further strengthened, migrants settled inside Schengen are reduced and concrete measures are taken by EC on speeding up procedures for political asylum and repatriation.
"The Schengen system is in a major crisis. If it were functioning, it should mean that there should be no border control inside this space. But the reality is different. Since 2015, Germany has reintroduced border control on its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has for the first time in its history introduced control of its border with Slovakia. Austria controls the border with Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia with police and army personnel. This defacto outlines this big problem that we can only solve together.
We need EU-wide legislative changes to allow police officers to act quickly and effectively and a common policy to deter migration. We also need a clear signal at the European level that the countries on the front line in front of the migrant pressure are not left alone to deal with this problem, they are not left alone with the asylum procedures, and this is a legal problem at the pan-European level," he said.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev thanked the Austrian Chancellor for his support for pan-European efforts to protect the external borders, but expressed disagreement with his thesis on Schengen.
"I fully understand and respect Chancellor Nehammer's position. As a head of state, his first priority is the security of his country and the security of his fellow citizens. But I also argue with him about the following - that Schengen is not fully functioning in central Europe, that between countries introducing border controls does not mean that Bulgaria and Romania should stay outside Schengen We have developed capabilities and prove daily that we guard the EU's external borders better than many Schengen countries.
Schengen embodies one of the most important values of the union - freedom of movement. And apart from security, there are economic and other dimensions, and I think it is not fair that Romania and Bulgaria are outside Schengen, because our economies also lose from this, Austria also loses, because Austria is the number one investor in Bulgaria and we value this economic cooperation very much.
We also want to value the time of our citizens, who waste time and nerves waiting at the border crossings. So I believe we will find a rational solution in the foreseeable future.
Nehammer and I share a common belief that the protection of Europe's external borders is a common commitment and that frontline countries need support. I want to thank him for firmly defending this position before the EU and the Council of the EU," Radev pointed out.
The Bulgarian head of state also emphasized that while he represents Bulgaria before the Council of the EU, he will continue to raise the issue of protecting our border and Schengen at every meeting.
In the late afternoon, the Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer will also talk with the acting prime minister Galab Donev.
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