Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen Accession at Risk Due to Budapest’s Concerns Over Russian Gas

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Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov confirmed, Thursday in Brussels, that Hungary has warned that it could vote against Schengen extension if Bulgaria maintains the tax introduced on Russian natural gas transiting the country. Currently, the government in Sofia has postponed the collection of revenues from a new tax on imports and transit of natural gas from Russia.

“The strategy is to negotiate on land border controls. We have drawn up a proposal and we will send it to Austria. We will use the European Commission as a mediator in these negotiations,” Denkov told Bulgarian journalists in Brussels, where he attended the EU-Western Balkans summit and where he is attending the European Council on Thursday and Friday.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister said that he discussed these issues with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, with the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and with the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. “The preliminary talks have taken place, we are already willing to continue the discussions,” he added.

According to Nikolai Denkov, there is no discussion about the separation of Romania from Bulgaria in the matter of accession to the Schengen area. I heard that the Romanian authorities mentioned this option, but they did not raise it bilaterally or with the Commission”, he mentioned.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister confirmed that Hungary has warned that it could vote against the Schengen extension if Bulgaria maintains the tax introduced on Russian natural gas transiting the country. Hungary sent an official communication in this regard, even if at a not very high diplomatic level, and Bulgaria decided to waive the tax. “We decided that we should not take the risk now with steps that are not decisive for Schengen. The tax was important for the Bulgarian budget and for the balancing of the fuel market”, said Denkov.

Unlike Romania, Bulgaria is also totally against the option of its, and implicitly Romania’s accession to Schengen Air in the first place. At a recent meeting this week with his counterparts from Austria and Romania, Bulgarian Interior Minister Kalin Stoianov said that Bulgaria insists on full accession to the Schengen area of border-free movement, not only for air travel, the press office of the Ministry of the Interior of in Sofia.

On the other hand, Romania hailed Austria’s willingness to OK Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession in the Air Schengen area.

Moreover, Romanian PM Marcel Ciolacu said today that the negotiations for Romania’s accession to the air and naval Schengen Area could be concluded in the next two days. The Head of Government mentioned that the negotiations for the terrestrial Schengen Area could be concluded next year.

“We hope to complete in the next two days the negotiations for the accession to the Schengen Area in the first step, air and naval, and also to complete as much of the infrastructure as possible by next year, (…) and to prepare for next year as well when, also, I hope to finish the negotiations for this time’s accession to the terrestrial Schengen space”, said Ciolacu.

Yet President Klaus Iohannis claims that “there is still much to negotiate” until Austria will have a favorable position for Romania’s accession to Schengen, but he does not rule out that a solution will appear by the end of this year.

The head of state had, on Thursday, in Brussels, at the invitation of the president of the European Commission, a meeting with the Chancellor of Austria and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria on the subject of Schengen.

Asked about Ciolacu’s optimism regarding a decision to join Schengen with the airways in a first phase, Iohannis only commented that “there is still more to negotiate”.

The head of state did not rule out an extraordinary JAI Council until the end of the year, but insisted that “we still have work to do”. “Negotiations are moving forward, everyone is very involved, and if suddenly a solution appears it can be put into formal terms, but we still have work to do until then,” he said.

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1 Comment
  1. Panagiotis Spyridis says

    This Saga has to end soon. It is getting too ridiculous. Next time on any other issue, Romania should play Hard-ball. Gata.

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