Finland drops veto against Schengen enlargement
Finland has dropped its veto against Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the border-free Schengen area next year, leaving the Netherlands as the only blocking country, Romanian foreign minister Teodor Baconschi said Monday (14 November).
"The government in Helsinki on Friday decided to support a two-phased entry of Romania and Bulgaria next year - first the air and sea borders in March and then a decision about the land borders in July," Baconschi told journalists after a two-hour meeting with the Finnish minister.
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Meanwhile, in Helsinki, EU affairs minster Alexander Stubb confirmed that his government has changed course and adopted the two-phase approach agreed by most other Schengen countries.
While admitting he has "no illusions" the Netherlands - the only country still opposing Schengen enlargement - will change its position by the end of this year, Baconschi said that the Finnish move was "an important step forward in getting an absolute majority in the council [of ministers]."
All 22 EU countries in the Schengen area - including the Netherlands - have to agree to let Romania and Bulgaria in. The two have met all technical requirements but the Hague and Helsinki - up until now - argued that corruption and organised crime is still too high for the two to be trusted with securing the common border.
Romania also promised to step up its "bilateral police co-operation" with Finland and "send all the information needed to dissipate any remaining reservations" about its rule of law and fight against corruption.
In recent weeks, a number of high-ranking judges and public officials have been prosecuted for corruption and abuse of power.
A report by the EU commission on Bulgaria and Romania's justice efforts is due in February, with the Netherlands pledging not to reconsider its stance until then.