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Dec 11, 2023 13:46 EEST
December 11 (SeeNews) - Romania's prime minister Marcel Ciolacu and his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Denkov both confirmed that Austria is willing to relax its stance on expanding the passport-control-free Schengen zone by offering access for air travel, while still maintaining restrictions on road travel.
Austria has posed the primary obstacle within the European Union for Romania and Bulgaria to join the open-travel area. It remains opposed to the Schengen accession of both eastern European countries, asserting that the area should improve before expanding.
In exchange for allowing access for air travel to and from the two countries, Austria insists on tripling the mission of Frontex in Bulgaria and further enhancing border control with Romania, Austrian newspaper Kurier reported on Saturday, citing government sources.
Austria's position is a positive step, but Bulgaria rejects extra conditions and plans to keep negotiating for Schengen membership in the coming days and weeks, Bulgarian prime minister Nikolay Denkov said in a press release.
Romanian prime minister Ciolacu called Austria's decision a breakthrough in social media post and added that interior minister Catalin Predoiu had been tasked with meeting Austrian interior minister Gerhard Karner to finalise negotiations.
Ciolacu expects the terrestrial borders for Romania to be lifted next year, he said during a livestream on Monday morning.
In September, Ciolacu warned Austria of potential legal steps, stating that he would take the issue to the European Court of Justice to seek compensation for the losses incurred due to non-accession.
Bulgaria and Romania failed to obtain the required unanimous support from all 27 EU member states for their accession bids in December 2022 during the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.
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