Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Interior Minister Gerhard Karner were guests in Bulgaria on Monday. Similarities between the two countries were found in the protection of the external borders, but there are also differences.
It stretches over 236 kilometers and thus over a large part of the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The border fence is designed to prevent migrants from entering the EU illegally. However, the barrier is not difficult to overcome, a ladder is enough. Numerous videos are circulating on the internet showing how people smugglers pilot migrants across the border. The Bulgarians are still proud of their fence. They paid for it themselves and thus protect the EU border.
System failure and demand for reform
Austria sees things differently and, together with the Netherlands, blocked the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area in Brussels at the beginning of January. The ÖVP in particular believes that the Schengen system will not work given the 100,000 asylum applications in 2022 and calls for reforms. “Technical and legal changes are needed,” said Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Interior Minister Gerhard Karner. They demand effective border control, rapid repatriation of those who have no chance of a right of residence and asylum procedures in third countries. Nehammer and Karner visited the border fence at the invitation of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.
Not only was the joint demand for financial support of two billion euros for Bulgaria from the EU formulated, the differences also came to light. “The fact that Schengen does not work within Europe does not mean that Bulgaria and Romania should remain outside it. We protect the EU’s external border better than some Schengen countries,” said Radev.
Another setback for underprivileged countries
The Austrian delegation flew through the country in helicopters. Anyone who looked down knew why so many migrants want to go to Central Europe. Bulgaria and Romania are still the poorest countries in the EU – little infrastructure, dilapidated houses and roads. Educated young people move west.
The Schengen veto is another setback for the Bulgarians. People feel discriminated against. “They don’t recognize our efforts,” is often heard. During the low-altitude helicopter ride, a Bulgarian journalist asked, “Do you see anything?” Answer: “Yes. Poverty.”