Austria throws Romania a bone in the Schengen Area scandal. This is the first time Austria, the only country opposing Schengen enlargement, bestows a small favour to Romania.
Precisely, Austrian politicians stated they could offer Romania entrance to Schengen with aerial borders. This is only a statement, not an official act, but it is the first time that Austria seems to concede anything to Romania.
The Schengen scandal involved Romania and Austria and started when the Austrian chancellor refused to accept Schengen’s enlargement. The refusal brought along criticism, not only from Romania but from other European countries. Also, Romanians started boycotting the Austrian companies and refused to buy Austrian products.
Romania had successfully checked all criteria to join the Schengen area as early as 2011. Still, specific countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria, systematically refused to adhere to Schengen. Some nuanced their position, but Austria opposed completely accepting Romania into the free economic area.
Bulgaria is in a similar situation, and Bulgarian politicians even suggested that the two countries create a “little Schengen area” between them.
What is wrong with Romania’s accession to Schengen with aerial borders?
Nothing, as the Romanian tourists will be able to avoid queues in airports when travelling to fellow Schengen member states. And everything, as this is only a bone tossed by Austria to Romania. Yet, Romanian politicians used to boost their popularity and assume this gesture’s success. One after another, left or right-wing, the Romanian politicians marched from TV studio to TV studio to show the bone tossed by Austrians and to take as much credit as possible.
Yet, the real problem with keeping Romania and Bulgaria outside Schengen is the freight cost on roads. Transporters suffer the most and lose around EUR 2 Billion yearly because of the time they lose at borders.
As long as Romania is outside Schengen, freight transport companies have lost 18-22% of their turnover. At the border with Hungary, they sometimes wait 10-12 hours in the column, which means a missed driving schedule, which is 9 hours. If a truck is stuck at the border, a driving program does not produce money; it only produces losses.Adrian Pop, President of the Employers’ Association of Transporters “Europe 2002” in December 2022
So, what is to be done? Why is Romania accepting this bone? Politics is intricate and needs deep understanding, but Romania is undoubtedly negotiating with Austria and other countries for its Schengen access behind closed doors.
Land transport still has to wait, as far as the negotiations have gone, but the aerial accession is a first step towards the final goal.