Tuesday

27th Feb 2024

Dutch tulips blocked at Romanian border in Schengen dispute

  • Romanian authorities suspect Dutch flower imports of being infected with bacteria (Photo: Jill Clardy)

Citing health concerns, Romanian authorities blocked flower imports from the Netherlands over the weekend, just one day after the Dutch government announced it would veto the country's entry to the border-free Schengen area at an upcoming home affairs ministers' meeting.

Six truckloads of Dutch flowers, seeds and bulbs were halted on Saturday and Sunday (17-18 September) at the Romanian-Hungarian border. They were suspected of being contaminated with 'dangerous bacteria', Romanian customs authorities said. The ban will be in force for "a few days" until the laboratory results are clear, Elena Leaota, head of the plat protection authority, told Newsin press agency.

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Last year, Romania imported over 20 million euros worth of Dutch flowers.

The customs move comes after the Dutch cabinet on Friday decided to continue to oppose Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen zone. "As the Netherlands, we will be saying 'no' at the meeting planned in Brussels" on Thursday, immigration ministry spokeswoman Elaine de Boer told AFP.

Already delayed in March, the decision to let the two countries in has to be agreed by unanimity. Technical evaluations have concluded that the two countries are ready to join, but enlargement-sceptical countries led by France, Germany and the Netherlands have demanded greater effort in fighting corruption before letting the two states in.

Berlin and Paris have meanwhile indicated they may agree with a phased-in entry, whereby airports in Romania and Bulgaria are first opened to Schengen traffic and land borders are lifted only at a later stage. But the Hague is opposing this move too.

"The position of the Dutch government is disappointing for us, although it is no surprise, given that its political survival is dependent on the populist and anti-migration PVV party," Romanian foreign minister Theodor Baconschi said in a press statement.

"Unfortunately, it is another proof that EU rules are ignored as a result of strictly inner political considerations," he added, calling the Dutch concerns "unjustified" and "artificial".

He seemed confident, however, that a compromise will be reached on 22 September. "It is not a question of whether Romania will join, but when its land borders will be lifted," he explained.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria has also reacted to the Dutch opposition, warning it may block changes to the Schengen legislation if it is not admitted to the border-free area.

"If the interior ministers of the European Union at their upcoming meeting on Thursday take a reasonable decision that meets the interests of all in Europe and primarily the interests of the Bulgarian citizens, we will support the Schengen reform," foreign minister Nikolai Mladenov said at a press conference on Saturday.

"However, if on Thursday such a decision is not taken, we will have to consider very carefully our policy from now on in terms of the support we give to the reform of the European legislation on Schengen," he stressed.

Member states are currently mulling ideas to change the Schengen rules on border controls following increased fears about immigration to Europe.

MEPs back Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen bid

MEPs dealing with justice and home affairs on Monday backed Bulgaria and Romania's bid to enter the border-free Schengen area, already delayed due to reluctance from France and Germany.

Netherlands defends border control project

The Dutch interior ministry has said new cameras for screening people who enter the country by car will not violate EU laws on free movement or privacy.

Netherlands, Finland oppose Schengen enlargement

An interior ministers' meeting on Thursday is unlikely to approve a phased-in entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the border-free Schengen area, due to Dutch and Finnish concerns about corruption and organised crime.

Dutch insist on anti-corruption measures in border row

The Netherlands wants to see two consecutive "positive" EU reports on Bulgaria and Romania's anti-corruption efforts before lifting its veto to their Schengen membership, a Dutch minister has said.

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