Monday

15th Apr 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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.

UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

EU and UK negotiators said that a new post-Brexit settlement for Gibraltar was just weeks away from completion following four-way talks in Brussels on Friday (12 April).

Opinion

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

EU and UK negotiators said that a new post-Brexit settlement for Gibraltar was just weeks away from completion following four-way talks in Brussels on Friday (12 April).

Latest News

  1. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  2. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  3. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  4. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  5. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  6. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  7. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  8. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us