Schengen rejection: Austrian businesses in Romania face boycott calls
Various voices in Romania have been calling for a boycott of Austrian businesses after Vienna's decision to block the country's accession to Schengen. Liberal MEP Rareş Bogdan was among the first to make such a call, while local businessmen and even a top football club decided to stop working with Austrian banks or Austrian-controlled companies.
Universitatea Craiova professional football club released a statement after the December 8 vote that kept Romania out of Schengen, titled "Total boycott of Austrian partner companies." In the release, it said that, as of this month, it would move its accounts from the Austrian-owned lender Raiffeisen Bank and no longer use OMV-Petrom stations to fuel its fleet. At the same time, starting next year, their traditional summer camp will no longer take place in a mountain resort in Austria but in another European country that has similar training conditions.
"From our point of view, these companies, but not only them, are part of the absurd and discriminatory policy towards Romanians and Romania, promoted by the Austrian state these days," the football club said, adding that it hopes the entire Romanian football community will join its initiative.
Meanwhile, local businessman Dimitrie Muscă, also one of the most important farmers in the country, told Agerpres that he decided to close his firms' accounts at Austrian-owned banks. "I believe that Romanians must now be united and do the same. I don't want to work with Austrian banks ever again. In addition, I no longer buy diesel from Austrian companies," he said, according to G4media.ro.
A similar move was announced by Voicu Vușcan, administrator of Elit SRL, a major player in the industry of meat processing. He said on social media that he would stop working with Austrian-controlled companies if Austria vetoes Romania's accession to Schengen. "In Schengen or outside of it, for most of us, it doesn't matter much, it doesn't change our lives in any way, but if we feel proud to be Romanians, it's time to turn the page and hit back with the weapons we have," he wrote in a Facebook post.
From the political world, the strongest voice calling for a boycott of Austrian businesses was MEP Rareş Bogdan. In an intervention at the local news channel Romania TV, he said: "The Netherlands didn't vote against us, only Austria voted, in an unclassifiable way. From this moment on, I ask the Romanians and the state authorities to act accordingly. I want all state companies, starting with Romgaz, Transgaz, Hidroelectrica, Electrica, and all companies that have accounts at Erste and Raiffeisen, to urgently close their bank accounts and cards."
Austrian-owned banks also reacted to the Schengen vote
Austrian-controlled lenders Raiffeisen Bank and BCR (part of the Austrian group Erste) reacted to Vienna's veto against Romania's Schengen accession on Facebook.
"In the context of the negative vote for Romania's accession to the Schengen area, we are not in a position to comment on decisions of a political nature, but we say that we were surprised by this decision," Raiffeisen Bank said in its Facebook post.
Zdenek Romanek, CEO of Raiffeisen Bank, also said: "We fully support Romania's accession to the Schengen area. We were surprised by today's decision. We see it only as an intermediate result. We will continue to support the efforts of the authorities to achieve this goal."
In turn, BCR shared a statement from Willi Cernko, CEO of Erste Group, who also expressed his regret about the result of Thursday's vote against Romania.
"Romania and Austria have many things that are closely related together. Social, cultural and, of course, also economical. Austria is one of the most important investors in Romania, and Romania is, in turn, a very important export market for Austrian companies," Willi Cernko said.
"A veto is the strongest position an EU member state can take in a vote. We assume that the Austrian government has weighed this step very carefully, and we respect that it must also consider security concerns. Unity does not mean all partners must always be of the same opinion. However, it is clear that this step will have very tangible consequences for millions of EU citizens. Therefore, our common goal must be to quickly find a viable solution," he added.