Austria's Schengen Veto Dominates Meeting Between Austria's Nehammer and Bulgaria's Denkov

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: October 25, 2023; 14:51 ♦ (Vindobona)

A significant meeting took place in Vienna between Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov. The talks focused on Austria's persistent Schengen veto, which currently prevents an expansion of the Schengen area to include Bulgaria and Romania.

Austria continues to maintain its blockade stance on the expansion of the Schengen area, Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer (r.) told Bulgaria's Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov (l.) at the meeting in Vienna. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Florian Schrötter

Denkov, who made his first official visit to Austria four months after taking office, had earlier held talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. He used the meeting in Vienna to explain Bulgaria's position and appeal for understanding. "The main purpose of the visit is to explain to Austrian society and politicians that it would be better for Austrians if Bulgaria and Romania were part of the Schengen area," Denkov stressed. He highlighted the benefits of better protection of the EU's external border, lower food prices, and greater energy security.

Chancellor Nehammer, however, stuck to Austria's previous line and stressed that an expansion of the Schengen area was not possible at present. He pointed to the need for better protection of the EU's external borders, faster procedures, and repatriation agreements to reduce pressure on the borders. While acknowledging Bulgaria's efforts in border protection, Nehammer made clear that the current security situation does not allow for an end to border controls. "Austria's problem with migration has nothing to do with Bulgaria's borders," he added, pointing out that only a very small percentage of migrants apprehended in Austria come through Bulgaria.

Denkov expressed understanding of Austria's migration problem but stressed that a final decision would be necessary at the upcoming EU summit in December. The program also included talks with Georg Knill, president of the Austrian Federation of Industrialists, and leading members of the National Council. These meetings underscored the economic ties between the two countries and the importance of resolving the Schengen conflict.

In his guest commentary for the daily newspaper Der Standard, Denkov's predecessor Kiril Petkov had already argued that the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area made sense not only politically but also economically, DiePresse reported. He criticized Austria's stance as driven by "nationalist-populist rhetoric" and stressed the positive effects on food prices, inflation, and gas supply that Schengen enlargement would bring.

The meeting between Nehammer and Denkov thus highlighted existing differences but also provided space for dialogue and emphasis on common interests and challenges. The Schengen veto decision remains open and is expected to play a central role at the EU summit in December.

Federal Chancellery of Austria

Bulgarian Prime Minister