Romania’s Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu wants to drag Austria to the EU’s top court if it continues to block his country’s entry into the EU’s free-travel zone.
“If Chancellor [Karl] Nehammer unjustifiably uses his right of veto again, as prime minister I will have to challenge Austria’s decision at the European Court of Justice in order to claim compensation for the losses caused by non-accession,” Ciolacu said in an interview with Der Standard.
The damage amounts to “at least 2 percent” of Romania’s GDP, according to Ciolacu.
Croatia joined the Schengen zone this year, but Romania and Bulgaria’s accession was blocked following Austrian opposition over concerns about migration along the Western Balkan route. The Netherlands also pushed back against Bulgaria’s admission.
Two weeks ago, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told that his country remains opposed to the countries’ entry into Schengen over continued migration worries.
“It’s not directed against them, but we have the issue that approximately 20 percent of those coming to Austria were actually crossing Romanian territory,” he said.
Ciolacu denied that there’s increased migration through Romania. The country had introduced joint border controls with Serbia “so that we can take this issue off the table,” he said.
Meanwhile, Austria’s veto has “set a precedent,” Ciolacu said, “because the member states normally follow the recommendations of the EU institutions.”
In her State of the Union address Wednesday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threw her support behind the countries’ bids, praising Romania and Bulgaria for “leading the way” with their approach to asylum and returns.
“They have proved it: Bulgaria and Romania are part of our Schengen area. So let us finally bring them in — without any further delay,” she said.
EU lawmakers have also called on the Council of the EU to admit the countries. Their July resolution asked the Commission to consider compensation for the countries’ losses due to the “unjustified denial of Schengen area membership.”
Romania’s National Union of Road Hauliers (UNTRR) has warned that the country’s stalled Schengen membership has led to “unacceptable” queues on the border. That’s dealt a “strong blow” to its economy, the group said.