Sofia, Bulgaria (AP) — Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Monday that he opposes the expansion of the European Union’s visa-free Schengen area due to his country’s concerns about illegal immigration.
Nehammer visited Bulgaria at the invitation of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. The two leaders visited the Bulgarian-Turkish border, and Nehammer praised Sofia’s efforts to strengthen the border, as “the protection of the Bulgarian-Turkish border is in fact also the protection of the Austrian border”.
Nehammer said he supports the Bulgarian government’s request for €2 billion in EU funds to purchase helicopters, off-road vehicles and other technological equipment and improve infrastructure at the border.
He complained that the Schengen system, which provides cross-border visa-free travel for EU citizens, was in great danger. He cited the recent reintroduction of restrictions along borders between Schengen countries.
Austria introduced restrictions along its borders with Hungary and Slovenia in 2015, allowing more than one million asylum seekers to enter the EU from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These controls remain intact.
Nehammer also called for EU-wide legislative changes to enable police to act quickly and effectively, and common policies to deter immigration.
“Also, the front-line countries facing immigration pressure have not been left to deal with this problem, the asylum process has not been left unattended, and this is a pan-European legal issue.” He said.
Lumen Radev said he hopes his country will join the Schengen Agreement in the near future.
“The Schengen Agreement embodies one of the most important values of trade unions: freedom of movement. I don’t think it’s fair because we’re also going to lose our economy.