Austria and the Netherlands are "United in Opposition to Schengen Expansion"

EU | January 27, 2023, Friday // 16:22|  views


Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer received Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte yesterday in Vienna to discuss the topic of migration. Austria and the Netherlands opposed in December the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area and, it seems, continue to be on the same wave, the Romanian information site "Ziare" commented today, quoted by BTA.

The Austrian Chancellor and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands emphasized the close ties between the two countries. "We are united in our opposition to the expansion of Schengen at the moment," said Karl Nehammer, quoted by the "Kronen Zeitung", the Romanian news site wrote.

The Netherlands and Austria are preparing to jointly demand solutions to the fight against illegal migration at an EU meeting scheduled for early next month. Nehammer highlighted the importance of this summit. "we‘ve been waiting too long for this to happen," he noted.

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands said that he sees a consensus on the subject in the EU, but thinks that it will take several summits to solve this problem.

"When the refugee deal between Turkey and the EU was reached in 2016, it was easier," commented Mark Rutte. According to him, the EU is now facing many problems - Schengen, "Frontex", the Dublin system and repatriation. "We have to go back to the Dublin rules, otherwise Schengen will not survive," Mark Rutte warned.

Under the Dublin Rules, the first EU country a refugee arrives in is responsible for the asylum procedure. In practice, however, this system does not function, notes the Romanian information site "Ziare".

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehamer emphasized the EU's request for financial support for Bulgaria and Greece in order to protect the union's external borders. According to him, Austria and the Netherlands have the same problems with the transfer of refugees.

Karl Nehammer accused the European Commission, which does not want to fund border fences, of having an "ideological approach" to the problem.

"It is not right that Bulgaria should be left alone with the costs", because in reality the Bulgarian border police also protect the borders of Austria and the Netherlands. "It's not an ideological approach, it's a pragmatic one," Nehammer said.

"We need to be flexible and creative. Funding is also needed for technical equipment, for personnel and for drones. It is key that countries like Bulgaria and Romania get support. A fence that is not monitored is not a barrier," stated the Austrian chancellor, quoted by "Ziare".

"If we want the EU to remain a safe haven for refugees, we must ensure that their numbers are manageable," said Mark Rutte in turn. "It is clear that more measures are needed to manage the external borders," said the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

However, he noted that the European Commission should not be told what to fund, notes the Romanian news site, and points out that this remark was apparently a "shot" at his Austrian interlocutor.

"Ziare" recalls that a few days ago the Austrian chancellor visited the Bulgarian-Turkish border, where he stated that two billion euros were needed to expand the fence along this external border of the EU.

The Bulgarian-Turkish border is a "priority"

Meanwhile, in a letter to European leaders, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined Brussels' proposals for migration ahead of the EU leaders' summit in February, writes "Politico".

It focuses on four areas:

  • strengthening of external borders;
  • speeding up procedures for registering migrants entering the bloc;
  • stopping secondary movements as well as ensuring "effective solidarity";
  • working with third parties to increase the number of returns.

The publication recalls that Austria called on the European Commission to fund fences on EU borders, but Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Thursday that there was no money for this in the budget.

Von der Leyen is evasive on the subject, talking about "the mobilization of European funds to support member states in strengthening the capacity and infrastructure for border control" and defining the border between Bulgaria and Turkey as a "priority".

She also spoke of a "pilot scheme in the first half of 2023 to speed up the identification of migrants and returns. For a senior Austrian official, this is a "step in the right direction".

Von der Leyen's plan also calls for the "voluntary solidarity mechanism" to be implemented and for participating member states to agree on a significant simplification of existing relocation procedures in the first quarter of 2023.

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Tags: Schengen, Austria, Netherlands, nehammer


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