Not only Croatia, but especially Romania and also Bulgaria have done lots to prepare for joining the Schengen area. This was once again confirmed by the European Commission only a few weeks ago. Especially these days, it is important for Europe to cooperate more closely. I would like to appeal to Austria in particular that it reconsider its no vote on Romania and Bulgaria. I do so especially because the concerns regarding border protection have been addressed in the most recent compromise proposals. It would send a strong pro-European signal if, at the end of this truly challenging year, today’s Council meeting in Brussels could pave the way for further progress towards European integration.