Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu has issued a warning to Austria: Romania will pursue legal action at the European Court of Justice if Vienna maintains its veto on his country’s accession to the Shengen zone.
In an interview with Austrian daily Der Standard, Ciolacu revealed the economic cost Romania has so far incurred due to the veto, blaming Austria for a 2 per cent loss in GDP.
While Romania and Bulgaria are both part of the European Union, they are not yet members of the border-free Schengen zone. Romania’s accession was blocked during the December 2022 European Council summit called by Austria, which cited concerns over migration.
“Romania will attack Austria at the European Court of Justice if it uses the veto on Schengen again in October or December. We’ve suffered immense economic losses,” Ciolacu said, referring to the upcoming European Council summits, where Schengen accession is due to be discussed again.
The European Parliament has condemned Austria for keeping Romania and Bulgaria out of the Schengen Area. https://t.co/ZRfjLHuSWm
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 13, 2023
When asked about what strategy he would pursue to persuade Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer to reconsider the veto, Ciolacu directly challenged his claim of high migration flows through Romania.
“Chancellor Nehammer is not right when stating there is a high migration inflow through Romania,” Ciolacu said. He emphasised the new co-operation Romania has established with Serbia to clamp down on mass migration through the southern Balkan route.
Ciolacu further challenged Austria’s reasons for vetoing Romania’s Schengen entry, brushing aside allegations of political motives tied to Austria’s elections. There, concerns over migration have sent the national-populist Freedom Party of Austria to the top of the polls.
“I cannot accept the statement that the veto would be related to the electoral campaign in Austria,” he said.
Regarding the forthcoming Schengen discussions within the EU Council of Interior Ministers, Ciolacu outlined what he said was broad backing for Romania’s accession.
“Spain, as President of the EU Council, supports Romania’s accession to the Schengen area. All other states – except Austria – support Romania’s accession,” he pointed out.
The European Commission is also in full support of Romania and Bulgaria being admitted to the Schengen zone.
Speaking at the midday press briefing on September 15, EC spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said: “Our position has been made very clear, very strong. Romania and Bulgaria belong to Schengen.
“We will continue from our side to provide full political and operational support, so that a positive decision can be taken by the Council as soon as possible.”
Karoline Edtstadler, the Austrian Minister for EU affairs, remained steadfast on her country’s position, saying that a “broken system cannot be expanded”.
She added that the EU needed to shore up its external border controls before Romania and Bulgaria could be allowed into the zone. “Only secure external borders enable our vision of a Europe without internal borders,” she said.
Hipper struck a different note, maintaining that Bulgaria and Romania “have been fulfilling the criteria [for joining Schengen] since 2011”.
Ciolacu said “We currently have only one aggressor in Europe, and that is why now would have been the most favourable moment to demonstrate solidarity within the EU.”