Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership

  • Bucharest. Romania has met the criteria for Schengen membership since 2011 - but political factors, including concerns about the country's judiciary, have postponed any decision (Photo: Nico Trinkhaus)

Romania is expecting a clear signal from the EU in the year to come over its accession to the Schengen area, before it takes the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2019.

"We simply have to take a decision," EU affairs minister Victor Negrescu told a group of journalists, including EUobserver, in Bucharest. 


Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The Romanian government says that it meets the technical criteria for the accession, and that the EU is holding back the decision for political reasons.

Romania joined the EU in 2007, together with Bulgaria, which is also waiting to join the EU's passport-free zone.

The EU Council, which represents member states, said in 2011 that Romania fulfils the conditions - which mainly regards external border checks, police cooperation and data protection.

But Romania's partners have since postponed the decision to open Schengen to Romania and Bulgaria.

Frank discussion - but who with?

Negrescu noted that when Romanians "discuss directly" with other countries the issue, "it seems that no one has any problem."

"Everyone tells us that we should discuss with another country [about the problems], and we don't know with whom to discuss," he said. "We don't know why we should not be there."

The EU minister said that Romania expected, "hopefully next year", to have a "very frank discussion" with other member states, and that "maybe a vote should happen."

"It would be an excellent occasion to put the issue on the table of the EU," he insisted.

He noted that Bulgaria will hold the presidency of the EU Council from 1 January 2018, and that both Romania and Bulgaria rule out any decisions under their presidency, when they have to be "impartial mediators" between member states.

"There are six months between the [two] presidencies," he pointed out, referring to the Austrian EU presidency in the second half of next year.

"It could be a moment when a decision should be taken," he said, adding that Romania and Bulgaria should "go in together."

In October, Romania and Bulgaria were added to the Schengen Information System - the database of non-EU visas applicants - although with no right to add, delete or modify information.

'More work to be done'

Negrescu said that Romania could join Schengen in a two-step process, with controls removed first in airports, and later at land and sea borders.

But internal developments in Romania could delay the decision further.

In November, the Commission published its latest report on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism(CVM), a procedure that was put in place when Romania joined the EU in order to monitor its reforms of the judicial system and administration, as well as the fight against corruption.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans noted that Romania has made some progress but warned that there was "still more work to be done".

The Schengen accession process and the CVM are not formally linked, but several member states have said in that past that progress under the CVM would be part of the decision to grant Schengen membership to Romania and Bulgaria.

"The overall reform momentum in the course of 2017 has stalled," the EU executive noted when it published the CVM report.

It said that there was "a risk of re-opening issues which the January 2017 report had considered as closed" and that "challenges to judicial independence are a serious source of concern."

The EU executive referred in particular to an emergency ordinance that was adopted by the government in January, which decriminalised some offences such as abuse of office.

The ordinance was abolished in February after it led to massive demonstrations in the country and criticism from the commission.

Justice reform

The latest commission's warning came as a new controversial reform of the judiciary is being discussed in Romania and has again triggered demonstrations.

Under the planned reform, magistrates would be held accountable for incorrect rulings and would have to pay liabilities. Critics, including the EU, the US and the country's general prosecutor Augustin Lazar, say that the reform would put magistrates under political control.

Romanian foreign minister Teodor Melescanu assured that the reform was to solve "difficulties" in how justice is implemented and that it was prepared through "an extremely transparent process".

"There are a lot of cases where decisions appeared not to be very well prepared," he argued.

"The judicial system has to be organised in a way that ensures the population's respect and the credibility," he told the group of journalists.

Europe minister Negrescu noted however that the government would like to receive "concrete proposals and concrete arguments, even from the commission" about what should be done to fulfil EU expectations.

In September, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called in his State of the Union speech for Romania and Bulgaria's accession to Schengen.

But while the EU, following the migration crisis, is focused on strengthening the current Schengen area and its external borders, there seems to be little appetite to enlarge it to other member states.

Foreign minister Melescanu insisted however that Romania is using "the latest technology" for security and border management.



He added that Bucharest was also "open to discuss some amelioration in the development and the provisions in the Schengen area."

Trade flows

Under condition of anonymity, an official noted that Romania's accession to Schengen is a "very sensitive issue" for the EU.

He said he believed that the main reason behind EU states' refusal to enlarge the Schengen area was trade flows between eastern and western Europe, with western countries reluctant to help their companies relocating activities in the East, where costs are lower.

He said that as Romania was the fastest growing country in the EU - 5.7 percent this year and 4.4 percent in 2018, according to EU Commission forecasts - there was a "certain reluctance" from other member states to "open up".

"There is no other possible explanation," the official said, pointing out that if Romania was in Schengen, it would take 20 hours to transport goods produced in Romania to Germany, while it currently it takes two or three days, sometimes a week.

In the months leading up to its EU presidency, said Melescanu, Romania will "continue dialogue with other member states to ensure a consensus."

"We are ready, we are prepared," he said.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

Facebook promises privacy reboot ahead of new EU rules

Speaking in Brussels, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says the social media giant has "not done enough to stop the abuse of our technology." Her admission comes with new plans to wrestle with "bad content".

News in Brief

  1. Auditors criticise EU economic governance implementation
  2. Dutch environment group appeals air quality ruling
  3. Commission opens case into Polish railways state aid
  4. EU remove eight places from tax havens blacklist
  5. UK to keep forces in Germany over Russia fears
  6. Finnish presidential vote could go to second round
  7. Report: EU might pay Brexit residency fees for EU citizens
  8. Puigdemont free to travel around EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  3. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  5. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  7. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  9. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  10. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  11. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit

Latest News

  1. Berlusconi in Brussels on pre-election charm offensive
  2. ECJ should rule against Austrian online censorship lawsuit
  3. EU states loosen grip on tax havens
  4. Facebook promises privacy reboot ahead of new EU rules
  5. Europe is lacking tech leadership
  6. Spitzenkandidat system here to stay, MEPs warn capitals
  7. MEPs to keep 28 UK seats after Brexit
  8. Norway defends new Arctic oil drilling

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  2. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  3. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  4. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  5. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  6. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  7. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  8. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  9. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  11. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  12. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  3. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  4. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  5. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  6. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  8. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  9. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  10. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  11. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  12. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know