Air Schengen - a hoax for the national economy

George Marinescu
English Section / 12 decembrie 2023

Graphic by MAKE

Graphic by MAKE

Versiunea în limba română

According to Eurostat, only 32,459 tons of goods were transported by air to the EU from our country in 2022 Through the road transport of goods, the amount of goods in the relationship with the EU exceeds 60 million tons annually, according to the INS goods due to non-adherence to the Schengen area amounts to 10 billion euros annually

The announcement by the government officials in Vienna regarding the approval of the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area only with the air borders represents a measure without a major positive impact on the economic plan. While the authorities in Bucharest were enthusiastic about this beginning of the flexibility of Austria's position, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu stating that the statements of the Austrian Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner represent a very important first step, and Nicolae Ciucă saying that Karner's statements are encouraging, the position of the officials in Sofia was a categorical one, rejecting the conditionalities proposed by Austria for the opening of the Schengen airspace for Romania and Bulgaria, the governors of the neighboring country requesting entry into Schengen and with the land borders.

The rhetoric of the authorities in Sofia is correct, if we take into account the fact that, after the veto expressed by Austria on December 8, 2022 at the meeting of the JAI Council regarding the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen, several Romanian politicians stated that the blocking of accession means an annual loss for our country of more than 10 billion euros in the field of road transport of goods alone to which would be added 1.5 billion euros paid by any citizen or any company that has to transit the borders. However, the road transport of goods from Romania to the EU and from the EU to our country amounts to a volume that exceeds 60 or even 65 million tons annually (out of over 300 million tons of goods transported annually on the roads of our country), according to published data by the National Institute of Statistics. According to the media, a road between the Port of Constanţa and Vienna, which is almost 1,400 kilometers long, could be completed in less than a day by a TIR that has two drivers or 36 hours by a truck with one driver. In reality, this journey takes at least two days, due to the customs controls at the borders of Romania and Hungary. This means, first of all, higher costs with employees who stay instead of hauling goods during monthly business hours.

A reception of our country in the so-called Air Schengen would not reduce those financial losses as long as only 47,636 tons of goods are transported annually by air. Of this amount of goods transported by air in 2022 from our country, only 32,459 tons represent goods transported to the EU, according to data published on the Eurostat website. Moreover, no airport in Romania (not even Otopeni) is in the top 20 cargo transport airports in the European Union.

This proves that the main ways of transporting goods to and from the EU are in our country road transport and rail transport, followed by river-sea transport, which are bypassed by a possible decision on our country's accession to the so-called Air Schengen.

If we analyze the situation from the point of view of air passenger transport, we see that we are not doing very well in this field either. Eurostat data show that at the end of last year, of the 12.5 million people transported from Otopeni Henri Coandă airport (the only Romanian airport that appears in the cited European air statistics), 7.6 million passengers traveled on the Romania-EU route and inverse. The number of the respective passengers includes all passengers, including those from other states who came to Romania from other EU member states or left Romania for the other states of the EU bloc.

That is why the criticisms formulated by the European deputy Eugen Tomac and the leader of the AUR, George Simion, regarding the opening of Austria seem justified at first sight, because no positive economic impact will be recorded after the reception of our country in Schengen with only the air border.

Conditions set by Austria for the admission of Romania and Bulgaria in Air Schengen

We mention that yesterday the Austrian Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner announced, on the public television ORF, that Vienna is willing to relax the Austrian veto in Schengen in the case of Romania and Bulgaria, so that the two countries enter first with the airports. In exchange for a relaxation of "Air Schengen", i.e. free entry via air transport, Karner calls for stricter protection of external and land borders, as well as the readmission of asylum seekers who come to Austria via Romania and Bulgaria.

After the announcement, Minister Gerhard Karner passed the ball to the European Commission to take the required measures of Austria. "Now it's the Commission's turn," Karner told ORF1, noting that he had already submitted requests to the Commission in Brussels, asking for the tripling of the number of border police and the technical modernization of the border guard, especially at the Bulgarian-Turkish and Romanian borders - serbian

In the interview with ORF 1, Karner also said that asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Syria, in particular, should be transferred to Romania and Bulgaria "by bus, by train, in any form" and noted that all the conditions set by Austria will be discussed at the meeting of the so-called "Salzburg Forum" with other EU interior ministers, a meeting that is taking place these days in Slovenia. We mention that the Salzburg Forum includes Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Republic of Moldova, as well as the states of the Western Balkan region.

Immediately after Karner's announcement, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said: "Of course I'm happy and I think you are equally happy. We started the negotiations at this moment, because Romania was blocked. The first, most important step has been taken, Austria is more flexible. Naturally, they could not triumphantly announce that, from this moment on, Romania will enter without any conditions for the first step, air, following next year, I think that under the Hungarian presidency we will continue with the second step, land. (...) Austria's demands do not seem exaggerated to me, because we all want a strengthening of the border with Bulgaria and Hungary. Let's not fool each other and let's not lie, but Mr. Cherecheş managed to cross the border with a report card of a cousin 10 years younger. That is the truth, if we want to take these things upon ourselves. If we want to lie and put everything under the rug all the time, and believe that we are deceiving everyone, that I have a theory that this trick destroyed Romania, we will not succeed, that no one believes us. They're going to show us the footage you put on TV. So, there are some normal discussions and I am firmly convinced that they will be beneficial for Romanians and for the Romanian state".

For his part, the government coalition partner of Prime Minister Ciolacu, Nicolae Ciucă, the president of the Senate and the president of the PNL, said: "We welcome the statements of the Austrian Minister of the Interior, which prove a flexibility in the position of the Austrian partners. What Minister Karner did was an encouraging public statement in which he also set some conditions that will be discussed and analyzed in the coming period. We await the decision at the JAI extraordinary council organized at the end of the year by the Spanish EU presidency. Madrid has shown involvement in identifying constructive solutions in a European perspective".

The conditions imposed by Vienna, unacceptable to the government in Sofia

Instead, the AUR leader, George Simion, said that "access only by airspace will not solve the queues that Romanian carriers have to endure, nor the financial losses they suffer; practically, nothing is solved".

Simion stated: "We agree to enter Schengen even with airspace, but not at the price of being left without a well-established term for land borders, for road transport! If Marcel Ciolacu and the PSD-PNL coalition accept this poisoned fruit of Austria, to rejoice at the accession with the airspace only to close our mouths but without knowing for sure when the land borders will be lifted, then we will witness a huge betrayal of Romania's interests".

For his part, the European deputy Eugen Tomac, president of the PMP, said: "Any additional condition accepted by the Romanian state at the moment is an unnecessary concession. The only thing we can accept to remove any suspicion and mistrust that exists in Vienna is to ask the Austrians to send as many policemen as they want, to sit alongside the Romanian and Bulgarian policemen, to monitor border control. Otherwise, any surrender seems absurd to me, because we have economic losses of over 10 billion euros annually. We are deprived of access to the single European market, you cannot develop, you cannot be competitive on the single European market with Romanian products as long as you are outside the borders of the European Union".

The position of the last two political leaders seems close to that of the authorities in the neighboring country, more precisely the representatives of the government in Sofia and the president of Bulgaria.

"For our country, the opening of the land borders in the Schengen area, not just the air ones, is particularly important, as the Netherlands and Austria, the fiercest opponents of our country's entry into the area, have admitted that it would be possible from next year European free movement", commented the president of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, for the mass media from south of the Danube.

Moreover, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov defined as unacceptable the conditions that the government of Vienna is given to Bulgaria and Romania only for the opening of the Schengen airspace for the two countries.

Nikolai Denkov told Bulgarian media: "We have never discussed our entry into Schengen in this way and it is not acceptable as defined. It is not acceptable to introduce additional rules for Bulgaria and Romania. The idea is to comply with the provisions of the European regulation, which we are still complying with. If someone wants specific rules for Bulgaria, this is categorically unacceptable. We are open to increasing border security and are now working with the Austrian and Dutch services. For the reception of refugees, we will work according to European rules. There are procedures for who can stay in Europe and who can be returned, and the criticism has been that Bulgaria does not follow these procedures. The government has already launched a project and, together with the European services, we have improved the work on detained migrants.

We remind you that on December 8, 2022, Austria blocked the extension of Schengen for Romania and Bulgaria, justifying this by the large number of asylum seekers, an argument rejected by the two countries. The Netherlands also opposed Bulgaria's accession to Schengen.

If by the end of 2023 it will be established that Romania and Bulgaria will only enter the Schengen area with air borders, this means that passengers from Romania and Bulgaria will no longer have to go through passport control for flights within the EU, but will have to to identify themselves at check-in - just like all other EU citizens.

Der Standard: US politicians pleaded Romania's cause in Vienna

The decision of the government in Vienna would have been influenced by the lobby made in favor of our country by American politicians, claims the Austrian daily Der Standard.

The cited source shows that Romanian officials and diplomats insisted in Washington that the US use its special relationship with Austria to plead the Schengen cause. And this happened, on the relationship Washington - Vienna - Brussels - Bucharest.

A key figure in the discussions would have been James C. O'Brien, the US assistant secretary of state for Europe, who knows Romania intimately because he coordinates bilateral efforts to support Ukraine. He was in Austria and Romania last week; in Vienna he participated in the US-Austria strategic dialogue, in Tulcea he was present at the sixth meeting of the Romania-Ukraine-Republic of Moldova-European Commission-USA working group, established to ensure the flows necessary for Ukrainian grain transport. According to the Austrian daily Der Standard, among the American officials who advocated the cause of our country were Ronald Lauder - the president of the World Jewish Congress, who would have discussed with the decision-makers in the government in Vienna to waive the veto on the accession Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen area.

According to, the American officials discussed the subject with the Austrian ones including at the beginning of December, on the sidelines of the US-Austria strategic dialogue, which took place in Vienna on December 4. This strategic dialogue is a diplomatic format that dates back to 2019 and has brought Washington and Vienna much closer on strategic and security issues.

The situation of our country was discussed by American diplomats and politicians with their counterparts in Austria, because Romania represents an essential bridgehead for the US regarding Ukraine, but also a key ally in the Black Sea region. Furthermore, in view of the reconstruction effort in Ukraine, a Romania separated from the rest of the EU by border controls will seriously hamper the transport of materials, machinery and workers.

Germany, Spain and France, as well as other EU member states, were also allies of Romania and Bulgaria in the dialogue with Austria. Chancellor Olaf Sholz personally discussed the topic in Vienna with his counterpart Karl Nehammer, the Spanish EU presidency made the topic a priority during the rotating presidency, Paris also pushed the topic at every opportunity.

The reasons of these countries are bilateral (good economic and political relations with Romania, a significant Romanian community), or pragmatic - the need to show a united Europe in the face of Russia's attempts to divide the community block.

Cotaţii Internaţionale

vezi aici mai multe cotaţii

Bursa Construcţiilor