Romania on Friday recalled its ambassador to Austria to express discontent with Vienna for voting against the country joining the Schengen passport-free zone.
Austria on Thursday blocked the accession of Romania and Bulgaria into Schengen, the passport-free area that has scrapped border checks between most EU member states. All other EU states voted in favor of Romania’s accession.
The Netherlands supported Romania’s bid but opposed Bulgaria’s. Croatia received unanimous backing and will join the Schengen zone starting January 2023.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry said the recall was “ a political gesture.. that underlines Romania’s strong disagreement with Austria’s conduct. (The gesture) is an indication that we are reducing the current level of relations with this state”, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement published Friday.
Ambassador Emil Hurezeanu sent a a letter to the Austrian President, Alexander van der Bellen on Nov. 25 in which he expressed “concerns (…) regarding the dangers to which our exceptional partnership is currently exposed”, such as „the risk of a break in Austria’s tradition in diplomacy and communication, which is now putting our constructive coexistence at risk.”
As its main reason for keeping Romania and Bulgaria out of Schengen, the government in Vienna cited a rapid increase in the number of migrants entering Austria illegally through the West Balkan route.
President Klaus Iohannis called it “an inflexible decision” and said that joining the passport-free zone remained a ‘strategic national objective.”
Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca disputed Austria’s migrant figures.
The negative conclusion is a political defeat for both Romania and Bulgaria, who joined the EU in 2007, six years before Croatia.
The European Commission, in charge of assessing Schengen candidacies, has said the two countries are ready to become part of the passport-free area since at least 2011.
The European Parliament passed a new resolution denouncing the exclusion as „discriminatory.”
Created in 1985, the Schengen area allows people and goods to travel freely, usually without showing travel or customs documents.
It includes 22 of the EU’s 27 states as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.