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WORLD

Austria Remains Opposed to Expanding EU Visa-free Travel

January 24, 2023

SOFIA — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said Monday he stands against expansion of the European Union’s visa-free Schengen area because of his country’s concerns over illegal migration.

Nehammer travelled to Bulgaria on the invitation of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. The two leaders visited the Bulgaria’s border with Turkey where Nehammer hailed Sofia’s efforts to bolster its frontier because “the protection of the Bulgarian-Turkish border is actually also the protection of Austria’s borders”.

Nehammer said his country supports the Bulgarian government’s request for 2 billion euros in EU funding to purchase helicopters, off-road vehicles and other technical equipment and to improve the border’s infrastructure.

He complained that the Schengen system which offers EU citizens visa-free travel across borders is in a major crisis. He cited the recent reintroduction of controls along borders between Schengen member states for several reasons, including to curb illegal migration.

Austria introduced controls along its borders with Hungary and Slovenia in 2015, when more than 1 million asylum-seekers from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan entered the EU. Those controls remain in place.

Nehammer also called for 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 European level that the front-line countries in the face of migrant pressure are not left alone to deal with this problem, that they are not left alone with the asylum procedures, and that this is a pan-European legal problem,” he said.

Rumen Radev said he’s hopeful his country would join the Schengen group of countries in the foreseeable future.

“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,” Radev said.

 

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