“The wait has been long, I should say too long.. And the expectations are high, rightly so, on the part of the authorities and the citizens”, warns the Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson. The European Commission is stepping up pressure on Member States to approve the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in the area without Schengen borders, which has been blocked for more than 10 years. The Community Executive also supports the candidacy of Croatia, which generates less resistance.
The Czech presidency of the EU has put the decision – which requires unanimity – in the agenda of the next meeting of Interior Ministers on December 8. But the Netherlands maintains the veto it has wielded almost alone for a decade. The Dutch Parliament passed a resolution in October stating that admitting Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen would generate problems at border controls and would pose a threat to security. Also Germany and the Nordics have doubts.
Nevertheless, The Community Executive ensures that the two countries meet all the requirements demanded since 2011: effective border management, uniform Schengen visas, cooperation with the security forces of other countries and connection to all databases.
“Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia have convincingly demonstrated that they meet all these conditions. They have the tools, structures and procedures to manage external borders, including potential security threats. They have highly trained and dedicated staff, state-of-the-art infrastructure and knowledge”, stressed the Interior Commissioner.
To try to appease the doubts of the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania invited a fact-finding mission of 17 experts in October of the Community Executive, the Member States and the Frontex agency. “This mission not only reported very positively, but also reaffirmed the readiness of the two countries to join Schengen,” Johansson says.
However, the additional guarantees provided by the two countries and by the Commission are considered insufficient in The Hague. The Dutch government believes that the mission’s mandate was not broad enough, as it left out issues such as judicial cooperation, visas or data flows.
Before approving the entry of Romania and Bulgaria to Schengen, the Netherlands asks the Community Executive to prepare new reports for assess the state of judicial reform Y the fight against corruption and organized crime in the two countries. Some reports that it is not clear that they will arrive in time for the meeting on December 8.
“Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are ready to enter and I must say that the EU is ready to welcome them. I hope that the Member States will take this important, historic and positive decision. A moment of great pride for the citizens of these countries. And most importantly, a decision that interests us all,” argues the Interior Commissioner.
“This will be a truly European decision. Schengen has survived the turmoil of recent years. These challenges have been met thanks to a shared European spirit. And this spirit must continue in our modern world,” Johansson said.
Currently, all EU countries except Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland and Cyprus are part of the Schengen area, as well as four associated countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).
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