Wednesday

7th Dec 2022

Romania targets new MEPs in expanding Schengen backlash

  • Romania's Parliament may block the 18 extra MEPs from taking their seats (Photo: IMF)

Romania's diplomatic offensive on entering the border-free Schengen zone has expanded to the Lisbon Treaty, with local lawmakers threatening to derail a Lisbon protocol on the appointment of 18 extra MEPs.

Speaking to the Romanian NewsIn news agency on Tuesday (4 January), Attila Korodi, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower chamber of the Romanian parliament, revealed that the assembly in December decided to postpone until February its ratification of a Lisbon protocol allowing 12 EU states to appoint 18 extra members to the European Parliament.

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

The decision was made at a joint meeting between the foreign affairs committees in the lower and upper houses in late December, shortly after Germany and France urged Brussels to block Romania's entry into Schengen due to corruption and organised crime.

According to the protocol, France is to gain two extra MEPs, while Germany can keep all 99 of its already elected MEPs until 2014, when its allocated seats will drop to 96. The Netherlands will also get an extra euro-deputy, while Spain would get four, among other provisions.

The protocol was designed to rectify the problem that the current EU legislature was elected on Nice Treaty rules but that Lisbon Treaty rules came into force six months after the elections.

"The talks were very tough, we said we'll delay [the decision] for another month to see what the situation is. But the principle was: Why should we comply to everything, and the big powers - Germany - always get an immediate derogation," Mr Korodi said, in reference to the special provision allowing Germany to keep its three MEPs for four years.

His counterpart in the Senate, Titus Corlatean - himself a former Socialist MEP - also said there is a "matter of principle" about why smaller member states "are obliged to respect all the rules, while big member states get derogations, which are accepted."

If Romania rejects the protocol it would hurt Spain more than Germany and France, or the Netherlands, another member state opposed to its Schengen accession.

French MEPs get paid less than national MPs and there is little appetite to take up the extra posts. Without the protocol, Germany would keep the 99 MEPs until 2014 and the new Dutch seat would go a representative of the anti-immigrant Geert Wilders party.

Spain has fought the hardest to put the protocol in place, even convening a mini-intergovernmental gaggle on 23 June 2010, a few weeks before its EU presidency ended, at which the protocol was signed by all EU members and at which EU governments pledged to wrap up ratification by the new year.

"They are using the wrong tool if they want to pressure France or Germany, since neither of them are going to win from the 18 MEPs," Pedro Lopez de Pablo, spokesman for the Spanish centre-right group in the European Parliament told this website.

The Lisbon Treaty threat represents a new front in Romania's Schengen offensive after the country's foreign minister earlier threatened to create problems for Croatia's EU entry by insisting that the EU imposes an anti-corruption mechanism on the Balkan country on the model of the so-called CVM process imposed on Romania in 2007. The minister also threatened to unilaterally drop Romania's CVM if it does not get its way on the passport-free zone.

During a regular press briefing on Tuesday, European Commission spokesman Olivier de Bailly warned against "mixing up" the Croatia and the Schengen procedures. Natacha Butler, the commission's spokeswoman for enlargement added: "The mechanism that was put in place for Romania and Bulgaria should not constitute a precedent."

The commission also spelled out that, in legal terms, Romania cannot ditch its CVM, because the decision to phase out the mechanism is a commission prerogative.

For its part, Zagreb reacted cautiously to the developments. "We are convinced that Romania will continue, as it has until now, to support Croatia's entry into the EU," Mario Dragun, a spokesman for the Croatian foreign ministry said in a statement.

EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos

Hungary will be in the spotlight on Tuesday as EU governments struggle over suspending EU funds to prime minister Viktor Orbán's government — despite rule of law concerns — and unlock key EU policies which Budapest has been blocking.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.

Column

Autocrats make us all less secure

How should democratic states co-operate with authoritarian governments in the future? My organisation, Democracy Reporting International, has studied the security strategies of 13 democratic governments to understand how they see this relationship.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  2. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  3. Autocrats make us all less secure
  4. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  5. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'
  6. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  7. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  8. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us