Karner’s comments came during an interview with the daily Presse, according to Kronika, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
Land border control is still necessary.
In addition, he considered further expansion of passport-free travel zone, in terms of land borders, inappropriate at this stage.
However, the Austrian Minister said that the matter goes beyond these two countries, referring to the migration situation, which was among the main concerns cited by Vienna that led to the opposition to further expansion of the Schengen Area to include Bulgaria and Romania for many years now.
It is not just about Romania and Bulgaria. The entire migration system is in a catastrophic situation.
He said that he doesn’t give marks to Bulgaria and Romania, stressing that he is campaigning for a functioning system at the European level, highlighting the importance of the implementation of the new asylum and migration pact.
And this will only be realised if the external border is protected. This is also an essential part of the new asylum and migration pact that the EU has agreed on and which we must implement. Only then will there be complete freedom of movement in the EU again.
The Interior Minister mentioned that Austria, together with the two Balkan countries, has taken a step forward with the Schengen connection by air and sea, stressing that it is needed to move forward step by step.
Karner said that it’s not for Austria to set a schedule or adopt any regulations, but it is the Commission’s job to ensure that the entire system works.
Austria blocked Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to Schengen in December 2022 over irregular migration concerns. However, in December last year, Sofia Bucharest and Vienna reached an agreement on the latter’s proposal called “Air Schengen”which consists of four conditions for the accession of these two countries to the Schengen Zone.
Yet, recently, the National Union of Road Hauliers from Romania (UNTRR) urged the Romanian and European authorities to establish a precise date for the accession through land borders as well, after remaining outside the Schengen has cost the road freight industry €2.41 billion in losses.
At the same time, the head of one of the largest employers’ organisations in Bulgaria, Wasil Walev, mentioned that businesses in Bulgaria suffered at least €1 billion in losses due to stoppages at land borders and called for stringent checks on Australian drivers.