Victoria Georgieva, comment for Tribune.bg
Romania will block Austria’s participation in NATO meetings – this information first appeared as a rumor, then crept into the Austrian media, and on Monday the Romanian MEP from the European People’s Party, Rares Bogdan, quite officially confirmed it, stating that this is the only a possible move for his side at this point. Austria, although not a NATO member, has the right to participate in the meetings. The reason for these words is the Austrian veto on the extension of Schengen with Romania and Bulgaria. Moreover, Bohdan added that the diplomatic way is not enough and other ways should definitely be sought.
The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen is blocked only by Austria and the Netherlands, and the latter country actually has reservations only against us. Back in July, MEPs called on the Council to approve joining the Schengen area by the end of 2023, and adopted a resolution with 526 votes in favor, 57 votes against and 42 abstentions, which stated that both countries have already fulfilled the necessary admission requirements, and the Council’s decision of 8 December 2022 to reject their membership is not acceptable.
For some time, Romania has sharply hardened its tone against Austria, even threatening it with the Court of the European Union and declaring that it will demand compensations in the amount of more than 5 billion euros due to lost benefits for the economy from the denial of access to Schengen.
The Romanians took reciprocal actions that clearly show their categorical position. Two army officers from the Austrian armed forces in Brussels have been waiting for weeks for their accreditation to the Alliance, with our northern neighbor saying it will make a decision by mid-October.
Elections are coming up in the Netherlands very soon, in Austria they will be next year, and before that any decision that could affect the results, especially the one regarding illegal migration, will have been made only through the lens of what is best for the particular country, which it does not necessarily coincide with what is best for the EU for example. Moreover, Austria even threatened that it might close its border with Italy because of the many arrivals from North Africa. In the middle of the month, a state of emergency was declared on the Italian island of Lampedusa, with 9,000 people landing on the island in three days, a third more than the entire number of local residents.
As the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nemacher pointed out, at the moment the priority is the protection of the borders, and the expansion that concerns Romania and Bulgaria “can only be carried out after the protection of the external border is functioning”. But as it becomes clear, unlike our rulers, who uncomplainingly accept any criticism and any similar decision, the Romanians have decided to fight with all the means and opportunities that EU membership gives them. And they do it, and our rulers are supposedly negotiating…
Against the background of the clear reaction of Romania, we have been lurking, waiting for either our neighbors to do our job or for a miracle to happen. A tactic that has long been proven not to be very effective, especially when there is the possibility that we end up blowing the soup – with an apology. Because you realize that just as the Romanians are weaving their basket, in the end – in December – they might separate us for Schengen and we will be left with a finger in our mouth. Then it will become extremely clear what is extremely obvious even now – our rulers are characterless, and our diplomacy is clearly lame.
Let’s not miss the fact that everyone looks out for their own interests, the only problem is that apparently no one is interested in ours. When I write no one, I mean literally no one – the uncertain actions of our rulers and the failed late shuttles clearly speak of another portion of disappointment that we are about to swallow. Not that we’re not used to it.
Our Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov will also negotiate, or perhaps it is correct to say, he will beg, who will meet with the Chancellor of Austria on October 4, and the main issue is clear. However, Nemacher’s position is equally clear. The very information that was communicated to our media – that Denkov was going to convince his colleague how much Austria is losing, that Bulgaria and Romania are not in the space and how much it was going to gain, sounds very desperate. Is this diplomacy? To bend as much as possible, to wonder how many times to repeat things that have already been said hundreds of times, so that they will let us go. Probably, the example that Romania gives us is very difficult for our politicians to accept. The head proudly raised and an adequate reaction – sharp, even extreme according to some, is the right response to Austria’s behavior.
It’s not just Austria
But as we know, our problem is not only Austria. And the Netherlands? When will there be diplomatic shuttles there? Or we are waiting for Romania to take some action, and hopefully it will warm us too. Yes, well, but the Romanians only the Austrians trip them up. And what do we do in this case? Whatever now – nothing particularly efficient.
There are two hypotheses that are quite risky for us. Although it has not been commented on at the moment, what will happen if Austria is forced to take a step back after all, but only in relation to Romania, letting them into Schengen but not us? Quite possibly, given that, albeit on a different line, and even though there as a package, it is increasingly being discussed whether it is not appropriate to separate the RSM and Albania on their way to EU membership.
And speaking of the RSM, I wonder how none of our European partners have pressured us yet – Austria and the Netherlands say yes if you stop insisting that the RSM fulfill its obligations under the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborliness of 2017. Because all members of The EU, including Austria, constantly explains that constitutional changes are the only obstacle to the membership of the RSM in the Union.
Austria, as early as 2022, emphasized that they expect negotiations with Albania and the RSM to start immediately, and more recently, their foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, stated that only constitutional changes are needed, which is the last hurdle, stressing that “the solution can came only from you, and I assure you that it will not come from Sofia”. And that is not true at all. Macedonia also does not fulfill its promises regarding the changes in their history textbooks, hate speech, the rights of the Bulgarians there. In fact, why not really offer us to swallow another bitter bite?
We can probably only dream that soon our politician will be as clear and categorical as the Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Çolacu was, referring to Austria’s veto: “As long as I am Prime Minister, I will not accept that the Austrian Chancellor is a hypocrite and continues to humiliate Romania” And we will probably have ourselves to blame, because the rulers are a reflection of the voters…
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Viktoria Georgieva graduated from “Realization and preparation of TV shows” at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, as well as “Religion in Europe”, major “Islam”, again at SU. She also studied psychology. Deputy editor-in-chief at “Ah, these media!”, editor and author at “Conservator”, author at “Trud” newspaper.
She was a member of the Student Council at SU, worked as a marketing and advertising specialist for leading Bulgarian companies.