Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Germany to veto Schengen enlargement

  • Germany has joined the Netherlands in openly opposing Romania and Bulgaria's Schengen bid (Photo: wfbakker2)

Germany will veto Romania and Bulgaria's bid to join the border-free Schengen area at a meeting of interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday (7 March), due to insufficient progress against corruption.

"If Romania and Bulgaria insist on having a vote, their push will fail because of a German veto. The idea to gradually open up, meaning air and sea borders first, is also off the table," German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview published on Monday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, initially hoped to become members of the passport-free zone in 2011, but they ran into a joint Franco-German veto.

Germany and France later agreed to a phased-in membership, opening up airports and sea ports and keeping the land borders closed until more progress is made in fighting graft and organised crime.

But the Netherlands opposed this idea and the process stalled, as the Schengen enlargement decision is taken by unanimity in the council of home affairs ministers.

Last summer, during a political crisis in Romania which raised serious concerns about democracy and rule of law in the country, Germany changed its mind again, but it is only now that it openly talks about vetoing the bid.

The European Commission has since published a report about the rule of law in Romania and found that corrupt politicians seem to be above the law, as they remain members of government or parliament.

"The last EU report found some progress, but it is not sufficient. Romania and Bulgaria still have to act with more determination against corruption. Someone who would receive a visa against a bribe could - without further controls - travel all the way to Germany," Friedrich explained.

"Schengen enlargement will be accepted by our citizens only when the basic conditions are met. This is not the case for now," he added.

A Conservative Bavarian with strong anti-immigrant views, Friedrich also took the opportunity to campaign against Romanian and Bulgarian exploiters of the German welfare system, echoing similar concerns recently raised in Britain.

"Freedom of movement means that every EU citizen can stay in another country if they work or study there. Everyone who meets these conditions is welcome here. But those who come here just to cash in social benefits and misuse freedom of movement, must be effectively stopped from doing so," he said.

Asked how he plans to do so, Friedrich said he wants the EU commission to make sure EU funds are really used to help people in these countries.

Friedrich, whose Christian-Social Union is standing for re-election in September both at regional and national level, also advocates tougher sanctions against welfare fraud. One of his ideas is to ban people who were once deported from Germany from coming back again.

Back in Bucharest, the German news was met in a typically politicised manner: the centre-right president blamed the government for ignoring EU recommendations, while the Socialist Prime Minister said the previous government is equally responsible for the Schengen failure.

For his part, foreign minister Titus Corlatean first said that the country does not even want to join Schengen anymore: "We lived fine without Schengen so far, we can continue to do so."

But later on, he said the government is still advocating Schengen membership.

Named after a small village in Luxembourg, where the initial border-free deal was signed in 1985 between France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, the Schengen agreement now covers 26 European states, including non-EU members Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

Apart from Romania and Bulgaria, three EU states are not Schengen members: Cyprus, Ireland and the UK.

Romania's political turmoil may hit Schengen bid

Romania's current constitutional turmoil may ultimately result in its longed-for entry into the EU's passport-free zone being delayed still further, the European Commission warned Wednesday.

Feature

Bulgaria's winter of discontent

Huge protests in Bulgaria in the past 17 days stem from a deep political crisis that goes well beyond economic discontent and creates uncertainty for the future of the country.

Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen bid vetoed

The Netherlands and Finland on Thursday vetoed Romania and Bulgaria's bid to join the border-free Schengen area, a move the Polish EU presidency said represented a "sad conclusion about mutual trust among member states."

News in Brief

  1. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  2. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  3. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  4. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  5. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  6. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  7. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll
  8. Austrian government chaos as far-right ministers step down

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Dutch MPs: EU sanctions should bear Magnitsky name
  2. Far-right hate speech flooded Facebook ahead of EU vote
  3. Key details on how Europeans will vote
  4. Voter turnout will decide Europe's fate
  5. Happy young Finns don't vote in EU elections
  6. MEPs' #MeToo pledge - only 12 EPP sign up
  7. Poland sends EU reform letter in heated election climate
  8. Populists 'could be the opposition parliament needs'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us