Thursday

30th Mar 2023

France wants to delay Schengen accession for Bulgaria and Romania

  • Paris is wary of letting Romania and Bulgaria into Schengen without fixing the corruption problem (Photo: Anirudh Koul)

France wants to delay a decision on allowing Romania and Bulgaria to join Europe's border-free Schengen zone at least until summer 2011 and is pressing for more results in the fight against corruption and a better surveillance of the border with Moldova.

"We have to be very vigilent" about enlarging the border-free area to Bulgaria and Romania "who hope to join in March," EU affairs minister Pierre Lellouche said Wednesday in the French parliament, as quoted by AFP.

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

He warned against an "automatic enlargement" and said that the technical evaluations, which so far have all been positive, are not enough. Naming the Netherlands as its other ally, the French minister said his country was pressing "to delay this decision at least until summer 2011," when the European Commission is set to present its annual report on the fight against corruption and organised crime in the two countries.

Mr Lellouche's comments will deal a blow to efforts by Bulgarian and Romanian officials to separate Schengen accession from the commission's continued monitoring of their justice reform and anti-corruption efforts.

When the two countries joined the EU, in 2007, persistent corruption and insufficient reforms of their jutice systems determined the set-up of an unprecedented monitoring mechanism, which so far led to the freezing of some €500 million in Bulgaria due to fraud associated with EU funds.

Mr Lellouche said the latest reports of the commission were "worrying", as they noted too little progress in the two countries.

Adding to the overall situation, the French minister also said he was concerned about the Romanian-Moldovan border "because of the distribution of Romanian passports outside their border" and the separatist conflict in Moldova's eastern region, Transnistria, a "black hole" as he described it, in reference to the organised crime gangs and trafficking in weapons, drugs and people eluding the Moldovan or Ukrainian state authority.

The level of corruption in neighbouring Ukraine is also a matter of concern to France.

These arguments are new, considering that so far, Paris had rather pressed for Romania and Bulgaria to "properly integrate" their Roma communities before joining Schengen, as the French authorities unleashed an unprecedented crack-down on Roma camps, linking them to a rise in criminality.

In a press briefing with foreign journalists in Sofia, Bulgarian interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on Tuesday vowed to tackle "organised migration of Roma into EU countries."

Meanwhile, his Romanian counterpart, Constantin Igas, briefed a German-speaking audience in Brussels about the efforts undertaken by his government, despite the austerity measures, to boost security at the borders and meet all the standards for Schengen accession.

"After our EU membership in 2007, Schengen accession has become our number one priority," he said, adding that the government paid some €540,000, despite budget cuts, to improve the quality of border checks. EU funds amounting to some €500,000 were also used for the purpose.

Mr Igas admitted that Romania had "one of the longest and most difficult EU borders", over 2,000 km long, but insisted that all Schengen standards will be met by March next year.

As to corruption amongst border guards, he said the phenomenon was decreasing, as attested by the commission's reports.

EU officials familiar with the Schengen enlargement process say that if the remaining technical tests in November and December turn out positive, it will be "very hard" and even "unfair" not to let the two countries in.

A delay of a few months is possible, however, in order to signal that the process is not "automatic" and to put more pressure on the two capitals to clamp down on corruption and organised crime.

The decision has to be taken by unanimity of member states in the EU Council of Ministers, even though not all countries are part of the Schengen area, with Ireland, Great Britain and Cyprus being outside the zone.

Eastern diplomats point to the fact that new member states who joined the Schengen area in 2007 – ranging from the Baltic states to Hungary and Slovenia, "are more prepared" than some of the old member states. Greece for example, recently asked the EU to send some 200 guards to help with surveillance of its land border with Turkey, the point where most irregular migrants cross into the EU.

Exclusive

Sweden waters down EU press-freedom law

Press-freedom groups from Paris to New York have voiced dismay at Sweden's proposal to weaken a landmark EU law against corporate and political bullies.

Top EU prosecutor wants elite corps of specialised investigators

Europe's top prosecutor Laura Kovesi wants to create an elite corps of highly-specialised financial fraud investigators. The demand came in Kovesi's introduction to the annual report published by the Luxembourg-based European Public Prosector's Office.

Opinion

Why can't we stop marches glorifying Nazism on EU streets?

Every year, neo-Nazis come together to pay tribute to Nazi war criminals and their collaborators, from Benito Mussolini to Rudolf Hess, Ante Pavelić, Hristo Lukov, and of course Adolf Hitler, in events that have become rituals on the extreme-right calendar.

Latest News

  1. The overlooked 'crimes against children' ICC arrest warrant
  2. EU approves 2035 phaseout of polluting cars and vans
  3. New measures to shield the EU against money laundering
  4. What does China really want? Perhaps we could try asking
  5. Dear EU, the science is clear: burning wood for energy is bad
  6. Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity
  7. Finnish elections and Hungary's Nato vote in focus This WEEK
  8. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting
  2. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  3. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  4. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  5. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us