The governments of the EU states will give their vote in December whether or not to grant Romania and Bulgaria accession to the Schengen area, after over 10 years of postponements, according to Euractiv.
The issue of Romania and Bulgaria’s joining Schengen was voted by national ministers in 2011, but accession was blocked by the Dutch and Finnish governments. Accession to the Schengen passport-free travel area requires unanimity of votes.
“The Czech EU presidency is committed to making progress to allow Bulgaria and Romania to be fully part of the Schengen area,” Czech Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek said during a debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“In this regard, we are engaging with member states to prepare the ground for a substantive discussion on the lifting of controls at internal borders with Bulgaria and Romania. In our effort to secure the necessary unanimity in the Council, the presidency facilitated the expert visits in Bulgaria and Romania next week, as conducted by the Commission,” the Czech minister added.
A clear majority of MEPs endorse the lifting of border controls for Romania and Bulgaria, and is expected to vote on a resolution on the matter in the October 17-20 plenary session.
Only the Identity and Democracy (ID) group remains against, with Guido Reil, from the Alternative für Deutschland party, defining Romania as the “Wild West” in the middle of Europe and highlighting the levels of corruption and organized crime in the two countries.
“We have two EU member states who fulfill all conditions to join this area. They are ready for Schengen but they are still waiting for Council’s green light since 2011. 11 years, no progress. This is simply unacceptable,” said European People’s Party President Manfred Weber.
“There is no first and second class or there are no objective reasons to deny Bulgaria and Romania to this success. They have made all necessary steps and let me assure our friends in Sofia and Bucharest, you have our support, your place is within Schengen” Weber added.
In her turn, S&D President Iratxe Garcia Perez described the “blockade in the Council” as “discriminatory”.
“We talk a lot about solidarity, but it must apply to everyone. You cannot ask for solidarity from Bulgaria and Romania when the European Union is not living up to its own commitments. It is the best recipe for fuelling disaffection with Europe and support for populist anti-European messages,” she pointed out.
The Left supports the measure, but sees a pattern of exchange between freedom of movement and violence against migrants and refugees at the borders.
“I firmly believe in the free movement of absolutely everybody, but I find it very hard to separate Schengen expansion from the violence that is going on the edges of Europe. Grotesque and speed spectacular violence and abuse against refugees trying to enter Croatia” said Clare Daly on behalf of The Left.
President Iohannis: “There is this possibility, yet no guarantee”
Asked on Thursday about the possibility of a favorable decision on Schengen for Romania, President Klaus Iohannis said that “there is this possibility, but the guarantee does not exist yet”.
“There is this possibility, but the guarantee does not exist yet, it is good to know. We are all involved, myself and the Government (…) to make this happen. There are chances because the need for unity in the European Union became even clearer on the occasion of the war waged by Russia, and this unity can be strengthened if Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia become part of the Schengen area, after so many years of waiting,” said Iohannis, on Thursday, before the first meeting of the European Political Community, which takes place in Prague.
“This unity can be strengthened if Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia become part of the Schengen Area after so many years of waiting. I think all leaders have realized that this step can only enhance the unity of the Union and our soundness of approach,” Iohannis added.
Questioned if, at this moment, there is still any opposition, such as that of the Netherlands, for Romania to enter Schengen, Iohannis avoided giving a concrete answer, saying that “not all the points are clarified”, but that he “believes” that ” this time we have better chances than in other circumstances”.
The head of state and the minister of the interior, Lucian Bode, said that a visit of EU experts is being prepared to check border management, police cooperation and the return of illegal migrants. Also, according to political sources cited by Euractiv, Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, the main state that opposes Romania’s entry into Schengen, will visit the country next week.
Ex-FM sees Romania in Schengen before January 2023
The former Romanian foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu told Digi24 that in December, the ministers of interior and justice from the European Union, who will meet in the Council of Justice and Internal Affairs (JAI), will make the decision regarding the integration of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Agreement.
“In my opinion, the appropriate decision will be made in December and we will be members of the Schengen agreement before January 1, 2023,” said the former FM.
Diaconescu argued that this favorable decision for Romania, which comes after years of waiting, is due to the war in Ukraine. “The war (brought us closer to this decision – n.r.) and the way we did things. The war and the way we reacted, starting from the citizens who, in front of the wave of migration, had an extraordinary reaction, and I want to tell you that the reaction of the Romanian citizen of support, help, availability, of empathy. And, to the same extent, the fact that we fulfill the conditions for joining the Schengen Agreement, these conditions being evaluated by the Cheval commissions, by the European Commission, I think about seven or eight years ago, so, from a technical point of view, there are no problems,” he said.