Saturday

28th Jan 2023

MEPs back Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen bid

  • Bulgaria and Romania hope to join Schengen next year (Photo: johnnyalive)

MEPs dealing with justice and home affairs on Monday (2 May) backed Bulgaria and Romania's bid to enter the border-free Schengen area, already delayed due to French and German reluctance.

Both of the EU's youngest members, who were hoping to have a green light to join Schengen in March, "have met the necessary conditions," MEPs said in a report adopted in the responsible committee and likely to be endorsed by the entire chamber in June.

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

Only interior ministers can decide by consensus on who joins the Schengen area, based on evaluations made by national experts. But MEPs gained extra powers in the area of justice and home affairs following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty last year and they are now seeking to reform the Schengen system and have a greater say.

Member states are reluctant to give MEPs a veto right however. An internal document from a meeting of national experts on 5 April suggests the parliament could be persuaded to give up their pursuit of extra powers if member states exercise greater scrutiny over border management.

"The European Parliament might be persuaded to give up co-decision in return for greater transparency by member states and partnership with the European Parliament," the document, seen by EUobserver, reads.

The experts are due to meet again on Tuesday (3 May), on the eve of the publication of proposals by the European Commission on reinstating border checks to stem irregular migration from the Arab world.

According to a draft version dating from 15 April, the commission envisages a "mechanism" spelling out clearly when and for how long border checks can be re-instated if a country is unable to manage its borders or if there is a big influx of migrants.

"Such a mechanism would apply for a limited and pre-determined period of time, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules," the draft reads.

Euro-deputies on Monday also called for member states to keep them in the loop about "additional measures" to be taken in the Bulgaria-Greece-Turkey borders, the main entry point for irregular migrants from the Arab world and central Asia on their way to the EU.

Greece, already a member of the border-free area since 2000, last year appealed to the EU to have its land border with Turkey re-inforced by patrols sent by other Schengen states. Deficiencies in securing the Bulgarian-Turkish border in the same region have prompted national experts evaluating the country's preparedness to call for extra measures.

In addition, in December last year, Germany and France publicly expressed their reluctance about "premature" enlargement of the Schengen area, citing corruption as the main stumbling block.

Bucharest and Sofia have since stepped up their efforts, with scores of allegedly corrupt border guards arrested by the Romanian anti-corruption unit.

"Are these two countries ready to enter Schengen? My answer is clearly yes. And this is clear in all the evaluation reports and it is clear from the visit we carried out. In some areas these two countries are even better prepared than some countries who are already Schengen members", said Portuguese centre-right MEP Carlos Coelho, who drafted the parliament's position.

Speaking on Romanian public television last Wednesday, President Traian Basescu said he was not against changing the rules so as to allow for temporary re-instating of border checks, "as long as this is done after Romania and Bulgaria join the area."

The Hungarian EU presidency aims to get an agreement on the Schengen entry date at an interior ministers' meeting on 9 June, with the possibility that the two countries join in the autumn.

Dutch tulips blocked at Romanian border in Schengen dispute

Romanian authorities blocked Dutch flower imports over the weekend, one day after the Netherlands government announced it would veto Romania and Bulgaria's entry to the border-free Schengen area. Sofia, meanwhile, has threatened to withdraw its support for Schengen reform laws if it's not admitted into the zone.

Poland's legal fixes to collect EU funds come under fire

Unlocking the €35.4bn in grants and loans allocated for Poland as part of the EU's Covid-19 fund is key for the Law & Justice (PiS) government to boost its chances ahead of the upcoming elections in the autumn.

Exclusive

MEP pension fund invested in cluster munition arms industry

The European Parliament's voluntary pension scheme held 14,900 shares in Raytheon in 2008 with a market value of $547,000, despite being blacklisted by Norway's sovereign wealth in 2005 for producing and selling cluster munitions.

Opinion

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Opinion

Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

The director of Amnesty International Greece on the political spying scandal that now threatens to bring down prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Activists and NGO staff work with the constant fear that they are being spied on.

Latest News

  1. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  2. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  3. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  5. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades
  6. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  7. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  8. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us