ZAGREB, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Austria supports Croatia's entry into the European Union's (EU) border-free Schengen area but rejects the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, visiting Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said here on Wednesday after meeting with Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.
"We will support Croatia's accession to the Schengen area but will be critical of the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania," Nehammer said, adding that Croatia, unlike the other two countries, has obviously fulfilled all its obligations in terms of preventing illegal migration.
Austria will vote on the acceptance of countries into the Schengen area individually, Nehammer said.
He stressed that Austria is facing one of the biggest challenges among all EU member states because of illegal migration and the increased number of asylum seekers.
"Since 2015, we have accepted many people into our country, and now we have tens of thousands of Ukrainians seeking asylum," he said, noting that the EU needs to better protect its external borders to make free movement within the Schengen area possible.
Plenkovic said that he understood Austria's concerns regarding the increased number of asylum seekers, and that his country will closely work with Austria to strengthen the EU's external borders.
Vienna's position on the Schengen area's enlargement has caused concerns in Croatia, as Austria's Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner has said that his country will not agree to the enlargement of the Schengen area, arguing that it "does not work."
The European Commission has recently said that Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania are ready to join the Schengen area as they have met all the necessary criteria.
The Schengen area enables cross-border travel without the need to carry a passport. Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria are the only EU member states that are not part of the Schengen area. ■