The truth is the truth, no matter how much formal juggling Vienna and The Hague performed at the JAI Council on December 8th! Austria and the Netherlands joined hands and divided labor, ensuring that they could block Schengen access for two countries whose accession they had strongly signaled they did not agree with: Romania and Bulgaria.
Fair enough, the Dutch, after autumn’s bruising turmoil, played good cop with Romania and bad cop with Bulgaria on Thursday, while Austria took on the thankless task of short-circuiting Bucharest’s pathway.
The Austrian approach naturally raises questions not only in terms of its own internal policy, but also from a geopolitical perspective, in line with Vienna’s proven traditional sensitivity towards Moscow, especially since the signals from the top of the Austrian state have been bizarrely contradictory in recent weeks. But through the attitude shown on Thursday towards Bulgaria’s accession, the Netherlands itself massively complicated the case of Romania’s being co-opting into a very precious club, given the fact that Bucharest and Sofia had been sold as a package deal for years. However, in an ad hoc all-time top of responsibility or the broken shards on Thursday, the Austrian culpa still remains significantly higher than that of the Dutch.
What happened matters, of course, but even more important now is what we can do from here on.
From this point of view, as I wrote a month and a half ago, “nothing that corresponds to Romania’s strategic interest can be traded for Schengen. Neither our place in the EU, nor the commitment to this club, nor to the Euro-Atlantic spectrum, nor to the contribution to the inhibition of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is negotiable”.