Saturday

8th May 2021

Romania targets new MEPs in expanding Schengen backlash

  • Romania's Parliament may block the 18 extra MEPs from taking their seats (Photo: IMF)

Romania's diplomatic offensive on entering the border-free Schengen zone has expanded to the Lisbon Treaty, with local lawmakers threatening to derail a Lisbon protocol on the appointment of 18 extra MEPs.

Speaking to the Romanian NewsIn news agency on Tuesday (4 January), Attila Korodi, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower chamber of the Romanian parliament, revealed that the assembly in December decided to postpone until February its ratification of a Lisbon protocol allowing 12 EU states to appoint 18 extra members to the European Parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The decision was made at a joint meeting between the foreign affairs committees in the lower and upper houses in late December, shortly after Germany and France urged Brussels to block Romania's entry into Schengen due to corruption and organised crime.

According to the protocol, France is to gain two extra MEPs, while Germany can keep all 99 of its already elected MEPs until 2014, when its allocated seats will drop to 96. The Netherlands will also get an extra euro-deputy, while Spain would get four, among other provisions.

The protocol was designed to rectify the problem that the current EU legislature was elected on Nice Treaty rules but that Lisbon Treaty rules came into force six months after the elections.

"The talks were very tough, we said we'll delay [the decision] for another month to see what the situation is. But the principle was: Why should we comply to everything, and the big powers - Germany - always get an immediate derogation," Mr Korodi said, in reference to the special provision allowing Germany to keep its three MEPs for four years.

His counterpart in the Senate, Titus Corlatean - himself a former Socialist MEP - also said there is a "matter of principle" about why smaller member states "are obliged to respect all the rules, while big member states get derogations, which are accepted."

If Romania rejects the protocol it would hurt Spain more than Germany and France, or the Netherlands, another member state opposed to its Schengen accession.

French MEPs get paid less than national MPs and there is little appetite to take up the extra posts. Without the protocol, Germany would keep the 99 MEPs until 2014 and the new Dutch seat would go a representative of the anti-immigrant Geert Wilders party.

Spain has fought the hardest to put the protocol in place, even convening a mini-intergovernmental gaggle on 23 June 2010, a few weeks before its EU presidency ended, at which the protocol was signed by all EU members and at which EU governments pledged to wrap up ratification by the new year.

"They are using the wrong tool if they want to pressure France or Germany, since neither of them are going to win from the 18 MEPs," Pedro Lopez de Pablo, spokesman for the Spanish centre-right group in the European Parliament told this website.

The Lisbon Treaty threat represents a new front in Romania's Schengen offensive after the country's foreign minister earlier threatened to create problems for Croatia's EU entry by insisting that the EU imposes an anti-corruption mechanism on the Balkan country on the model of the so-called CVM process imposed on Romania in 2007. The minister also threatened to unilaterally drop Romania's CVM if it does not get its way on the passport-free zone.

During a regular press briefing on Tuesday, European Commission spokesman Olivier de Bailly warned against "mixing up" the Croatia and the Schengen procedures. Natacha Butler, the commission's spokeswoman for enlargement added: "The mechanism that was put in place for Romania and Bulgaria should not constitute a precedent."

The commission also spelled out that, in legal terms, Romania cannot ditch its CVM, because the decision to phase out the mechanism is a commission prerogative.

For its part, Zagreb reacted cautiously to the developments. "We are convinced that Romania will continue, as it has until now, to support Croatia's entry into the EU," Mario Dragun, a spokesman for the Croatian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  2. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  3. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  4. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  5. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  6. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  7. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says
  8. 11 EU states want to cut fossil-fuels from cross-border projects

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us