17:28 / 19.11.2022.

Author: Branko Lozančić

Bozinović: Austria does not see Croatia as a problem

Interior Minister Davor Božinović

Interior Minister Davor Božinović

Foto: HTV / HRT

The Austrian Minister of the Interior stated that it is not the time to vote on the expansion of Schengen and that the external border protection system is not working because the flood of refugees is flowing through the Balkans into Central Europe. Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović does not believe that there will be any problems with Croatia's entry into Schengen.

“Nothing special is happening. Without any announcement, we heard the statement of my colleague Gerhard Karner, the Austrian Minister of the Interior, who said in a radio show yesterday that it is not the time to vote on the expansion of Schengen,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, commenting on Karner's statement.

“I was in contact with him yesterday, and we talked today,” Božinović said.

“The fact is that Austria supported Croatia's Schengen membership from the very beginning of our Schengen accession process, and nothing has changed there,” he added.

He says that Austria will benefit the most from our entry into Schengen.

“Austria is among those countries that will in some way benefit the most from Croatia's entry into Schengen, because our entry into Schengen strengthens the protection of Schengen borders and the entire package of legislative activities that must be adopted at the EU level. It is certain that Croatia and Austria have certain concerns when we talk about the route that goes through the Western Balkans to Croatia and the Eastern Mediterranean route,” said Božinović.

He pointed out the fact that the number of illegal migrations on all routes has increased this year.

“We have already spoken about this publicly several times in Croatia, the fact is that this year the number of illegal migration has increased on all routes, especially on the Eastern Mediterranean where the increase is about 193 percent. Croatia also recorded an increase. However, when it comes to Austria, the majority do not go through Croatia, but from Serbia through Hungary and then on to Austria. The problem exists when we talk about migration and not about our Schengen membership, and that is why we have an extraordinary Council on Friday where the entire package of migrant waves in all three directions will be discussed,” he added.

He believes that Austria sent a message to the participants of the meeting in Brussels with this statement.

“This was the message that Austria sent to everyone at the meeting organized on Friday in Brussels, that the overall problems with migrants must be taken into account. According to the information we have, there will be talk about it,” Božinović asserted.

He pointed out that it is a good signal that the Austrian chancellor is coming here on Wednesday and this will be a topic of discussion.

“Austria does not see Croatia as a problem and I am sure that it will show on December 8, when the final decision will be made. What I saw in that statement was that there was no mention of individual countries, especially not Croatia, but rather about expansion,” he added.

The office of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer (People's Party of Austria ÖVP) refused today to comment on the statement of Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) who opposed the expansion of the Schengen area to Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

The Austrian Ministry of the Interior confirmed for the HINA news agency that Minister Gerhard Karner, with his statement opposing the Schengen expansion, wanted to warn of the difficult situation with illegal migration that Austria has been facing in recent months. Likewise, it was noted that the minister nowhere explicitly mentioned which countries his remark refers to.

Croatia has fulfilled the conditions for entering the Schengen area and received the green light from the European Commission and the European Parliament. The final decision will be made by the Council for Justice and Home Affairs, which meets on December 8 and 9 in Brussels. The Czech Presidency prepared two draft decisions, one for Croatia, and one for Bulgaria and Romania. This opens the possibility that only Croatia will enter Schengen, considering that in the Dutch and Swedish parliaments they expressed their opposition to the admission of Bulgaria and Romania.

The decision is made by the EU member states, which are also members of the Schengen area, 22 of them. The decision requires consensus.

Asked about the number of registered illegal migrants in Croatia, Božinović said that this year there is an increase of 145 percent compared to the previous one, and that it is about 36,000 people. “Most of them come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but no longer exclusively via Una-Sana County but also via the Sava River,” he added.

He recalled that the liberalization of the visa regime in Serbia is partly responsible for the increase in the number of migrants, which is why for some time the second largest number of illegal migrants was from Burundi.

We recall that the Austrian Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner said in an interview with the Austrian Kurier yesterday that it is not time to vote on the expansion of Schengen.

He believes that the external border protection system does not work because - he says - the flood of refugees flows through the Balkans into Central Europe.

On the other hand, Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Tanja Fajon reiterated that Slovenia supports Croatia's entry into Schengen.

She explained that the announcement of border control even after the entry of Croatia - is not a threat.

She pointed out that all states within the Schengen area, in case of risk - decide to introduce internal border control.

Source: HRT

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