Wednesday

28th Jul 2021

MEPs back Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen bid

  • Bulgaria and Romania hope to join Schengen next year (Photo: johnnyalive)

MEPs dealing with justice and home affairs on Monday (2 May) backed Bulgaria and Romania's bid to enter the border-free Schengen area, already delayed due to French and German reluctance.

Both of the EU's youngest members, who were hoping to have a green light to join Schengen in March, "have met the necessary conditions," MEPs said in a report adopted in the responsible committee and likely to be endorsed by the entire chamber in June.

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

Only interior ministers can decide by consensus on who joins the Schengen area, based on evaluations made by national experts. But MEPs gained extra powers in the area of justice and home affairs following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty last year and they are now seeking to reform the Schengen system and have a greater say.

Member states are reluctant to give MEPs a veto right however. An internal document from a meeting of national experts on 5 April suggests the parliament could be persuaded to give up their pursuit of extra powers if member states exercise greater scrutiny over border management.

"The European Parliament might be persuaded to give up co-decision in return for greater transparency by member states and partnership with the European Parliament," the document, seen by EUobserver, reads.

The experts are due to meet again on Tuesday (3 May), on the eve of the publication of proposals by the European Commission on reinstating border checks to stem irregular migration from the Arab world.

According to a draft version dating from 15 April, the commission envisages a "mechanism" spelling out clearly when and for how long border checks can be re-instated if a country is unable to manage its borders or if there is a big influx of migrants.

"Such a mechanism would apply for a limited and pre-determined period of time, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules," the draft reads.

Euro-deputies on Monday also called for member states to keep them in the loop about "additional measures" to be taken in the Bulgaria-Greece-Turkey borders, the main entry point for irregular migrants from the Arab world and central Asia on their way to the EU.

Greece, already a member of the border-free area since 2000, last year appealed to the EU to have its land border with Turkey re-inforced by patrols sent by other Schengen states. Deficiencies in securing the Bulgarian-Turkish border in the same region have prompted national experts evaluating the country's preparedness to call for extra measures.

In addition, in December last year, Germany and France publicly expressed their reluctance about "premature" enlargement of the Schengen area, citing corruption as the main stumbling block.

Bucharest and Sofia have since stepped up their efforts, with scores of allegedly corrupt border guards arrested by the Romanian anti-corruption unit.

"Are these two countries ready to enter Schengen? My answer is clearly yes. And this is clear in all the evaluation reports and it is clear from the visit we carried out. In some areas these two countries are even better prepared than some countries who are already Schengen members", said Portuguese centre-right MEP Carlos Coelho, who drafted the parliament's position.

Speaking on Romanian public television last Wednesday, President Traian Basescu said he was not against changing the rules so as to allow for temporary re-instating of border checks, "as long as this is done after Romania and Bulgaria join the area."

The Hungarian EU presidency aims to get an agreement on the Schengen entry date at an interior ministers' meeting on 9 June, with the possibility that the two countries join in the autumn.

Dutch tulips blocked at Romanian border in Schengen dispute

Romanian authorities blocked Dutch flower imports over the weekend, one day after the Netherlands government announced it would veto Romania and Bulgaria's entry to the border-free Schengen area. Sofia, meanwhile, has threatened to withdraw its support for Schengen reform laws if it's not admitted into the zone.

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.

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 MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  2. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  3. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?
  4. US maintains summer travel ban on EU tourists
  5. Does democracy need troublemakers?
  6. Separating migrant families at EU borders must stop
  7. Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar
  8. 'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us