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Europe’s free movement area should welcome Croatia but exclude Romania and Bulgaria

Europe’s free movement area should welcome Croatia but exclude Romania and Bulgaria

BRUSSELS, Dec 8 (Reuters) – The Austrian-led opposition is expected to block Bulgaria and Romania from winning approval to join the European Free Control Area on Thursday, although its 26 member countries are expected to admit Croatia .

The so-called Schengen zone – a pact between countries to abolish border controls for those traveling between their territories – is one of the main achievements of European integration.

But it has come under increasing pressure over the past decade, limiting its member states’ ability to tightly control migration and effectively track down security threats.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said earlier this week that Vienna opposed the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into Schengen, a club made up of 22 European Union countries, as well as Iceland, the Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

“We need more time. At the moment we have 75,000 unregistered illegal migrants in Austria – which means that they have crossed an external EU border and arrived in Austria. This must d first be resolved,” he said.

This is despite the fact that the EU’s executive European Commission has repeatedly declared that the three countries meet the necessary technical requirements in terms of border controls, data protection and visa policy, among others.

A Romanian government source said Bucharest was committed to obtaining a decision from the meeting of interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday in favor of enlargement.

“Austria is completely isolated at the European level. We will not stop until we have exhausted all possible courses of action on this subject,” the source said.

The Netherlands sides with Austria in opposing granting access to Bulgaria, with The Hague citing concerns over governance and migration.

As all member countries must agree for a candidate country to join Schengen, Romania and Bulgaria were disappointed on Thursday.

“Croatia can expect a positive decision, but Romania, and in particular Buglaria, will not be able to join Schengen yet,” an EU diplomat said. “They will be left out for at least six months to a year before we can revisit the matter.”

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, additional reporting by John Irish and Toby Sterling; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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