The ambassadors of the EU member states discussed the expansion of the Schengen Area and the proposals for Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria to enter Schengen.
According to the diplomatic sources cited by the Croatian publications Index and Total Croatia News, there was no objection against the proposal to accept Croatia in Schengen, but the Dutch ambassador opposed Bulgaria, while Austria opposed Bulgaria, but also Romania.
Total Croatia News reported that the ambassadors of the EU states gathered within the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) of the Council of the EU discussed the expansion of the Schengen Area to include Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, as part of the preparations for the meeting of the Council of Justice and Home Affairs (JAI ) from next week.
No member state had any objection to the proposal to welcome Croatia into Schengen. According to internal regulations, some member states must obtain the approval of the competent committees in their national parliaments to present their positions in the EU Council.
A week ago, Austria announced that it has objections to the expansion of the European area of free movement. Austrian officials, namely the Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, and the head of the Government in Vienna, Karl Nehammer, have publicly stated that they oppose the reception of Bulgaria and Romania in Schengen, due to the large number of migrants arriving in the center of Europe. In this context, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Lucian Bode, met on November 23 with his Austrian counterpart, Gerhard Karner. During the discussions, the Romanian Minister of the Interior explained to his counterpart that Romania does not direct emigrants to Western Europe, but that the route of those arriving in Austria passes through Serbia and Hungary.
The conclusions of the meeting were not clear, the Austrian officials avoiding to send an answer that attests to Romania’s support for the accession to the Schengen area. According to HotNews.ro sources, Lucian Bode did not receive any concrete answer from the Austrian officials, a fact that worries the officials from Bucharest.
Romanian president also Klaus Iohannis stated that a postponement of the decision is possible: “If for various reasons we will not be able to have a certainty by December 8 that things are very clear, there is a possibility that this decision will be postponed by one or two months until all the questions receive clear and correct answers and everyone will be convinced that we are not only not a vulnerability, we would be a real gain for the Schengen Area and to complete what I said – some have questions for us and others question Schengen . The Schengen area operates according to some rules that were established a few years ago”.
The governments of Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia and the Netherlands have submitted their proposals to their parliaments to support Croatia’s entry into Schengen and are now waiting for the green light. All other EU and Schengen states have already confirmed their support for Croatia. Coreper will again have the Schengen extension on the agenda on December 7, a day before the meeting of interior ministers who are expected to take the final decision.
According to diplomatic sources, the Dutch ambassador was against accepting Bulgaria, Germany supported all three countries and Austria was against Bulgaria and Romania. Another diplomatic source told the Croatian agency Hina that France strongly supports Romania. The problem, according to Croatian media, is that Bulgaria and Romania cannot be separated because the border between the two countries was never meant to be an external Schengen border. To separate the two countries would require the preparation of border protection and the organization of border crossings in accordance with Schengen rules, and this could take years.
According to this source, there could still be pressure on those opposed to Bulgaria and Romania for all three states to enter, but it is more likely that only Croatia will get the green light. On the agenda are the proposals for two decisions, one for Croatia and one for Bulgaria and Romania. The decision needs the consent of all 22 member states of the Schengen Area
The two accession resolutions – that of Romania and Bulgaria and the resolution of Croatia – to be voted on by the JAI Council (Justice and Internal Affairs) are on the agenda of the meeting on December 8. EU ambassadors will meet on December 2 in Athens.According to Romanian officials, after the meeting in Athens it will be known whether Romania will be accepted in Schengen or not.