Monday

13th Jul 2020

Romania threatens Croatia in Schengen dispute

  • Romanian FM Theodor Baconschi (l) during a Council of ministers meeting (Photo: Council of European Union)

Romania is threatening to create problems for Croatia's EU accession bid in a diplomatic counter-attack against delays to its own entry into the EU's border-free Schengen zone.

Romanian foreign minister Teodor Baconschi in an interview with the daily newspaper Adevarul on Monday (3 January) attacked Germany and France for linking Romania's Schengen bid to progress on corruption and organised crime.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

"The same rules that were applied to any other enlargement of the Schengen area must be respected," he said, noting that Romania had been promised to get into Schengen when it met purely "technical" requirements.

"Let's have a look at Croatia's situation. We are supporting any EU enlargement to the western Balkans. But we can't accept that this is being done without CVM, as long as CVM is being kept in our case," he added in a thinly-veiled threat to hold Zagreb to ransom over the Schengen issue.

The so-called Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was imposed on Romania and its southern neighbour Bulgaria in an unusual move in 2007 because the European Commission and other EU states wanted to pressure the two countries to keep-up anti-corruption reforms after they entered the Union.

Four years later, the CVM is still in place and Romania is still rated as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe.

In a letter sent last month to the European Commission, German and French interior ministers said Romania and Bulgaria must make "irreversible progress" in terms of CVM monitoring before they can enter Schengen.

Schengen enlargement has no legal connection to the CVM. But the proviso is also supported by the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, which believe speedy Schengen entry would remove an incentive for further reform and would help organised crime rings in the two countries to expand into other EU states.

Romania's Mr Baconschi also said that Bucharest could "unilaterally" ditch the CVM, explaining that it should be a two-way street and a co-operation platform rather than a "handicap."

EUobserver understands that this option is not really feasible however, as the monitoring was a jointly agreed commitment of Bulgaria and Romania when they joined the bloc. "It's unwise to give it up if you want something else at the same time," one EU official told this website.

For its part, Croatia has already been held hostage by its neighbour Slovenia, which in recent years delayed its EU accession progress over a maritime border dispute.

Romania's sabre-rattling seems to be directed primarily at Germany - Croatia's main supporter in the EU - rather than the Balkan state itself. But it could, in theory, delay the process.

Croatia is hoping to finish EU accession talks in the coming months. EU governments and the European Parliament then have to approve and ratify its accession treaty, with membership likely to happen in 2013 if everything goes smoothly.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria, the other country targeted by the Franco-German letter, has so far kept a low profile, pledging to do its utmost to fulfil all the Schengen conditions.

On Monday, however, a new scandal was sparked by former interior minister Rumen Petkov - himself under investigation for corruption - when he accused the Bulgarian government of embezzling EU funds intended for Schengen preparations.

Mr Petkov pointed out that a total of €160 million had been granted for Bulgaria's Schengen preparations, of which €30 million were redistributed to the ministry of finance.

"I am inclined to believe it has been stolen," Mr Petkov said. "There has been a huge increase in cigarette, fuel and drug smuggling through the Bulgarian border," the former interior minister stated. He also claimed that 560 people who are not allowed to enter the EU have recently crossed the country's borders anyway.

Mr Petkov's allegations reflect a dire image painted by EU officials in talks with US diplomats in Sofia, as reported in a US cable dating back to 26 June 2009 and published by WikiLeaks.

Under the headline "How to you make them reform when they don't want to?" the US diplomats spoke of EU commission officials' "growing and by now extreme frustration with Sofia's cosmetic fixes to get a 'good report' while failing to undertake real reforms." "The government's defensive arrogance - and lack of political will - is intensifying enlargement fatigue in Brussels," an EU source told the US diplomat.

"According to reliable contacts, Brussels Eurocrats have dubbed enlargement fatigue the 'Bulgarian Break,' further tarnishing Bulgaria's bad image within the EU," the cable added.

France and Germany oppose newcomers to border-free area

France and Germany have sent a joint letter to the EU saying they consider Bulgaria and Romania's entry into Europe's border-free Schengen area in March to be "premature". The move was slammed as "an act of discrimination" by Bucharest.

Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit

Ahead of expected tense discussions next weekend among EU leaders, European Council president Charles Michel tries to find common ground: the recovery package's size, and grants, would stay - but controls would be tougher.

Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact

Michael Spindelegger, the former minister of foreign affairs of Austria and current director of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), reveals some of the proposals in the European Commission's upcoming pact on migration and asylum.

EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds

EU auditors concluded on Thursday that EU key policies adopted to protect and halt the decline of pollinators across the bloc have been largely inefficient and called on the European Commission to better address this issue.

MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform

MEPs adopted on Thursday the Mobility Package covering truck drivers' working conditions - rejecting amendments pushed by central and eastern member states. However, the European Commission warned that two new rules might be not align with the Green Deal.

News in Brief

  1. Citizens' perception of judicial independence drops
  2. Irish finance minister voted in as eurogroup president
  3. Italy's League party opens office near old communist HQ
  4. 'Significant divergences' remain in Brexit talks
  5. Germany identifies 32,000 right-wing extremists
  6. WHO to hold probe of global Covid-19 response
  7. China accuses Australia of 'gross interference' on Hong Kong
  8. EU to let Croatia, Bulgaria take first step to join euro

Column

The opportunistic peace

This will be the most selfish act in recent economic history. It will burden future generations and by no means make the weakest member states better off.

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  2. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  3. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds
  4. MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform
  5. If EU wants rule of law in China, it must help 'dissident' lawyers
  6. Five ideas to reshape 'Conference on Future of Europe'
  7. EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece
  8. Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us