UPDATED: Germany wants Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania to join Schengen

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BERLIN, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Germany supports bids by Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania to join the Schengen area, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in Brussels on Thursday, adding that she did not share Austria’s opposition to enlargement of the visa-free travel zone.

“I cannot understand Austria’s position in this respect,” Faeser told reporters ahead of talks with her EU counterparts. “I know that Austria has big domestic debates over the issue.”

She added: “We will support Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, all three.”

Austria on Thursday said it will veto the EU’s two poorest members Romania and Bulgaria joining the bloc’s Schengen visa-free zone, dashing their decade-long bid.

Decisions on Schengen enlargement have to be taken unanimously. 

The EU ministers were expected to approve Croatia joining Schengen, which would expand the area to include 23 of the EU’s 27 member states, plus Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

“I will vote today against the Schengen enlargement to Romania and Bulgaria,” Austrrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said as he went into a Brussels meeting with EU counterparts. 

“I think it is wrong that a system that does not work in many places should be enlarged.”

Austria, which is experiencing a strong increase in asylum requests, fears that admitting Bulgaria and Romania would increase irregular immigration. 

Karner said his country had recorded “over 100,000 illegal border crossings this year”.

Photo: German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser

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