Chancellor Karl Nehammer rowed back Interior Minister Gerhard Karner’s threat to veto Croatia’s entry into Schengen, adding the framework is defunct, ahead of a key visit to Zagreb on Wednesday.
Austria is experiencing an increased flow of non-Ukrainian refugees, twice as much as in 2021. As a consequence, the conservative ÖVP has been cracking down and seeking alliances – including with Croatia.
On Tuesday, Nehammer was forced to soften Karner’s threat to veto Croatia’s Schengen entry. “From Croatia, we hardly feel any migration pressure to the north,” the Chancellor stressed.
“Since Croatia’s border protection is exemplary, I see no problem there. The countries are voted on individually,” he added, as Kleine Zeitung reported.
On Tuesday, the Croatian president was already running damage control. “The reason why Austria is concerned is not Croatia, but the increasing number of asylum seekers in Austria,” he calmed.
Nehammer insists that a Europe without internal borders relied on strong external borders, and an expansion of Schengen would be the “wrong signal” as long as Europe’s outer borders remain unprotected, he told APA.
The European Commission has called for the Schengen area be expanded by Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, as the three meet bloc criteria to be part of the borderless area.
Zagreb’s accession to Schengen and the protection of the EU’s external borders will be topics of discussion in Zagreb on Wednesday, the chancellery informed.
Austria’s insistence that countries be treated individually may worry lawmakers in Sofia, as Bulgaria fears being left out while its neighbouring countries join Schengen.
(Nikolaus J. Kurmayer | EURACTIV.de)