The President of Austria has a favourable opinion of Romania, in the context of its accession to the Schengen area / But the final decision belongs to the government, and the signals from here are not optimistic

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Romania’s ambassador to Austria, Emil Hurezeanu, says Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has recently taken a fashionable stance towards Romania’s entry into the Schengen area, but he has no decisive role in formulating the executive’s opinion.

Hurezeanu says that Romanian diplomacy is currently making the final efforts to convince Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Interior Minister Gerhard Karner that Romania meets all the conditions for Schengen accession.

Hurezeanu says that despite all the common data from the interior ministries or Frontex, the EU body that helps EU states manage their external borders, the Austrian executive is still rather negative about a positive vote on Romania’s entry into the Schengen area.

„Today, Monday, is a day when two extremely important meetings are taking place. On the one hand we have the experts’ meeting and on the other hand we have the meeting of the interior ministers. So far, each time, our experts’ opinions have coincided with the Austrian police data. This is a dynamic reality, but the decision is political. Moreover, until two weeks ago there were never any contradictions between the data of the two ministries.

We have now seen that this is a repeated opposition from the Chancellor and the Minister of the Interior, a position that has not been based on the reality on the ground or on what is presented in the European Union’s Frontex reports. These opinions make us think that they are the expression of a political will and not one based on concrete reality”, commented Emil Hurezeanu.

European diplomatic sources say that last week in Vienna, during a meeting of EU ambassadors to Austria with President Alexander Van der Bellen, he spoke in favorit of Romania’s entry into the Schengen area.

Our sources say that the Federal President made it clear that his position is highly critical of the Austrian Chancellor’s views. He said that he does not understand why there is this blockade against Romania, especially since Frontex reports are positive.

Hurezeanu confirmed that Van der Bellen had said that „the blockade against Romania will in no way make the government’s migration policy more digestible”.

Asked if he would make this opinion public, the Austrian president is reported to have said that it is the reason of state that leads him to remain reserved in his statements when he has a divergent opinion from that of the executive.

Alexander Van der Bellen has been president of Austria since 2017, and from 1997 to 2008 he was chairman of the parliamentary group and federal spokesman of the Austrian Green Party. Van der Bellen supports green, social-liberal and pro-European economic policies.

Although, in theory, entrusted with great power by the Constitution, in practice the President acts, for the most part, as a ceremonial figure. Austria’s president is directly elected by universal suffrage once every six years and can only be re-elected once.

The Greens, the second-largest party in the coalition supporting the government led by Chancellor Karl Nehammer, do not support Austria’s veto against Romania and Bulgaria joining Schengen, an announcement made by Vice-Chancellor and Green leader Werner Kogler on several occasions. „Austria still officially supports the accession of Croatia as well as Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area,” said Vice-Chancellor Kogler, according to the Kurier.

„Austria continues to officially support the accession of Croatia as well as Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area,” said Vice Chancellor Kogler.

On the other hand, Karl Nehammer is an Austrian politician and member of the ÖVP, who became chancellor of Austria on 6 December 2021. He was previously Interior Minister from 2020 to 2021, Secretary General of the ÖVP from 2018 to 2020 and a member of the National Council from 2017 to 2020.

The explanation of the political stakes of the Austrian government’s decision to give Romania a negative vote comes from the political context in Austria, a hot one these days. This is due to the fact that elections are due to take place in Lower Austria in January and the right-wing ruling party is in last place in the polls.

Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Kartner recently issued a new statement rejecting Romania’s and Bulgaria’s entry into Schengen. In an interview with the Kurier, he said that for the time being it only makes sense for his country to include Croatia in the European free movement area. According to him, Romanians and Bulgarians would still have problems with the protection of external borders, the rejection of asylum seekers and their distribution.

In reply, Ambassador Emil Hurezeanu explains that the 40% illegal migration rate in Austria cited by the government in Vienna is part of a survey with a small sample and does not reflect the real situation. In addition, says Hurezeanu, relations between the two ministries of the interior of Austria and Romania have been among the best in recent times, with the ministers congratulating each other on several occasions for their cooperation and results.

Austria remained the only EU member state to oppose Romania and Bulgaria’s entry into Schengen, after the Dutch government announced on Friday that parliament in The Hague would give its consent to Romania and Croatia’s accession.

But Schengen membership requires a unanimous vote at a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers on 8 December.

Translated article

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