Bulgaria and Romania signed a joint declaration with Austria, paving the way for partial entry into the Schengen area in exchange for an increased fight against illegal immigration, according to a document consulted by AFP on Saturday.
“The presence of Frontex on the Bulgarian-Turkish border should be at least tripled” and “controls on the land borders between Bulgaria and Romania and between Romania and Hungary should be strengthened,” the document, dated Friday, reads.
Furthermore, Bucharest and Sofia are committed to the full application of European law, which ensures that asylum claims are processed in the country of arrival of migrants.
The two countries must therefore “immediately return all asylum seekers and the refugees they are responsible for” but those who continued their journey to Austria, “without any limitation”, which is “particularly important for the applicants, Afghan and Syrian asylum seekers”.
Alternatively, Austria, which vetoed the integration of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area last year, is trying to soften its position.
Romanians and Bulgarians will be authorized to travel freely within the Schengen area by air and sea, “with an entry date of, for example, March 2024”.
Land borders, on the other hand, will remain subject to passport controls, with a possible lifting dependent “on the successful implementation of all measures leading to a significant improvement in the migration situation in Austria”.
Romania and Bulgaria, members of the European Union since 2007, will be able to travel freely without internal border controls from the Schengen area rejected by Austria by the end of 2022.
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