Austrian minister Gerhard Karner visited Bucharest on April 26. He met with Lucian Bode to discuss Romanian’s Schengen Accession. This visit was seen as an opportunity to discuss his latest claims, after at the beginning of April, Karner made an acid statement for the Kurier newspaper.
"Austria's position has not changed at all. Freedom of movement in the European Union will only be possible in case of robust protection of the external borders", he declared.
"There is a contradiction with the German chancellor. He wants to remove border control between Romania and Hungary, but Germany still controls the border with Austria. It’s clear proof that the system does not work", Minister Karner added.
During the meeting of the two ministers in Bucharest, Gerhard Karner said he would fight alongside Romania to prevent illegal migration. He said that from Austria’s point of view, that would be the only way for Romania to join Schengen and that it would take a long time for that to happen.
Lucian Bode remains firm concerning Romania’s Schengen membership.
“It is not natural for us, Romanians, to be deprived of our rights.”
"I want to emphasize that balance is crucial and it is not natural for us, Romanians, to be deprived of our rights. I conveyed to Gerhard Karner that Romania's acceptance into the Schengen area must be finalized in 2023," stated Minister Bode during the joint press conference.
"I was impressed by the progress made in the pilot project that Romania is developing with the support of the European Commission. Therefore, I will also pledge my support to Romania in front of the Commission to ensure that they receive everything they need. During my visit, I also had the opportunity to see the impressive work being done by my colleagues at the Border Police. The Minister of the Interior and I are partners in improving the internal security system," stated the Austrian minister during his visit.
According to government sources, Lucian Bode requested data from Gerhard Karner regarding the corrupt migrant guides he mentioned at one point, specifically to determine how many were Romanian and how many were from the Republic of Moldova.
However, the sources indicate that the Romanian minister did not receive the requested statistics.
For years, Romania's accession to the Schengen area has been dependent upon the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (MCV). This mechanism involved regular checks by authorities to ensure the judiciary system is independent and corruption is being combated. However, last year, the European Commission abandoned this instrument after determining that Romania had made significant progress in both areas.
As a result, Romania is now subject to another mechanism that is applied to all EU member states - the Annual Report on the Rule of Law - which ensures that democratic principles are upheld. Therefore, corruption is no longer the primary issue preventing Romania's entry into Schengen.
According to Austria, the main obstacle to Romania's accession is now illegal migration, which may flow through Romania into Western Europe. Austria’s claims have been repeatedly dismissed by migration data, which shows most of the illegal border crossing happens along the Bulgarian borders.
As Romania continues to face obstacles in its efforts to join the Schengen area, thousands of drivers are experiencing delays, wasting time and resources as they are stuck in customs.
Romania will have another opportunity to join Schengen in June, during the JAI (Justice and Internal Affairs) ministerial meeting, which will be held under the six-month presidency of Sweden.