Austria will only accept Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen Zone if the European Union's migration policy is changed.
“We want to continue discussing the Schengen expansion, in coordination with partners in Bulgaria and Romania, so that we can put it back on the agenda after the necessary steps are taken regarding migration and asylum policy,” Edtstadler told Austrian radio ORF.
Furthermore, the Minister stated that the Austrian government anticipates significant progress in this area beginning in January, when Sweden will assume the presidency of the European Union Council, citing Sweden as a country with migratory experience.
According to Edtstadler, the decision on Schengen Zone expansion will not be delayed until the entire asylum reform at the EU level is enacted, which will take time.
“We have to take these steps, step by step, and establish a plan, and then we can talk about expanding Schengen to include Bulgaria and Romania,” she pointed out in this regard.
Authorities in Austria believe that the new changes to the European Union's migration policy should include a pilot project for accelerated management of asylum procedures at the EU's external borders, money for all states located at these borders, and the ability to seek asylum in safe third countries.
Recently, the European Union Member States unanimously endorsed Croatia's accession to the Schengen Zone, which will take effect on January 1, 2023, although Austria had a different view on Romania and Bulgaria.
Despite criticism of Austria's decision, Austria's Federal Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, stated earlier this month that he supports Austria's decision.
Despite the fact that both Balkan countries have met the necessary standards to join the Schengen zone, the process has not yet been completed.
According to a report, Austria stated that there would be no extension of the Schengen Area as long as the EU's external borders were not sufficiently protected.
“The misguided EU asylum policy has caused this situation. Now we will continue to fight in the EU to correct these mistakes,” he stressed regarding the issue.
Along with Austria, authorities in the Netherlands made similar choices. The decision against Bulgaria and Romania joining the Schengen Zone was condemned not just by authorities in both Balkan nations, but also by authorities in other European countries.
Previously, Romania's Economy Minister stated that remaining outside the borderless Schengen area costs the Balkan country €10 billion in financial losses.
By fLEXI tEAM