Bulgaria is part of the solution to the problem of migration pressure and our accession to Schengen will make the control over the external borders of the EU even more efficient, said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Maria Gabriel at a joint press conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna.
Analena Berbok and Maria Gabriel: Bulgaria has fulfilled all the conditions for entry into Schengen
The Deputy Prime Minister also supported Austria’s position that the Schengen area must adapt and respond to new realities. “Bulgaria in Schengen means an additional strong voice in support of a better functioning Schengen area. Our membership will strengthen the security at the external borders of the EU and make Europe more competitive,” said the Deputy Prime Minister categorically. Gabriel noted that the subject of Schengen is related to the bilateral relations between Sofia and Vienna from the point of view of the development of business relations and of tourism.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Bulgaria is moving in the right direction to join Schengen, but he says there are many challenges in the Schengen area as many countries are rolling back their border controls.
Schallenberg said Europe “is safer when it is united” but “there is a lack of security” and noted the growing number of asylum seekers in Europe. According to him, Bulgaria must make more efforts in protecting the external borders of the European Union, and Austria’s veto is not personally aimed at Bulgaria or Romania.
Schallenberg pointed out that Austria is surrounded by member states or associated states of the Schengen area and yet continues to have the largest share of asylum seekers in Europe. Austrians love Schengen, but they have the impression that the system is currently dysfunctional and does not give them the sense of security they need, he added.
Maria Gabriel was visiting Austria at the invitation of the Federal Minister for European and International Affairs Alexander Schallenberg.
“Bulgaria and Austria are good partners and friends. Together we can participate in the formation of the important decisions for Europe for the benefit of citizens and businesses,” said Gabriel. She recalled that next year we will celebrate 145 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Gabriel thanked for Austria’s support for Bulgaria’s accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Maria Gabriel congratulated Austria on its presidency of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, where opportunities for common projects will be sought. She also welcomed the interest in Austrian investments in Bulgaria and stated her wish for their further strengthening.
“I see the potential to strengthen cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, innovation, green technologies, digitization, education, culture,” noted Gabriel. Austria is the second largest foreign investor in Bulgaria. “Nearly 350 Austrian companies operate in Bulgaria. This is another opportunity to work together for the benefit of businesses and citizens,” added Gabriel.
Current international issues were also discussed during the visit, including support for Ukraine, the situation in the Middle East and the European Union’s enlargement policy. The position of categorical condemnation of Hamas’ terrorist actions against Israel and Israel’s right to self-defense in compliance with international law is also common.
“Bulgaria supports the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans based on the principle of own merits. “Safe, stable and sharing EU values countries near Bulgaria is a matter of strategic importance,” stressed the Deputy Prime Minister. “Common projects, shared values and joint initiatives not only deepen the cooperation between Bulgaria and Austria, but also make Europe stronger,” concluded Maria Gabriel.