04/04/2012 The European Parliament says ‘yes’ to Bulgaria and Romania entering the Schengen Area

On Wednesday October 12th, MEPs met for the plenary session in Brussels and clearly stated their support for the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Area. The two Member States, which have both met the conditions for joining this free-movement zone, are now dealing with opposition from two of their European partners

The Parliament is united behind Bulgaria and Romania

The Schengen Area

This is a free-movement zone among signatories of the Schengen Agreement that was signed on March 26th 1995. Today there are 22 EU Member States signed up as well as four associated states – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria are not yet members and border controls are thus still in place. Other States that may join the Area in the longer term include Serbia, Croatia and the Ukraine.

En savoir plus

During the debate held yesterday in Brussels, MEPs reaffirmed their support with near unanimity for these two countries to enter the Schengen Area. Their membership was already approved on June 8th by a Parliament vote in which MEPs stated that they felt Romania and Bulgaria had fulfilled the entry conditions.

This point of view however is not shared by two EU Member States – the Netherlands and Finland. Both of these countries stated their opposition to Bulgaria and Romania joining. They believe that neither country is ready yet, particularly citing corruption and organised crime as reasons. Finland and the Netherlands are therefore calling for additional criteria to be met.

In a resolution that will be voted on today, the MEPs will officially ask the Council of the European Union and the Commission if they feel that adding conditions at this late stage is “fair” and “legal”. The Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek (EPP, Poland) has already stated his opinion that “Member States who are blocking the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Area need to review their position.”

A compromise is currently under discussion at the Council. It allows for membership by stages: opening the sea and air borders of the Schengen Area to Romania and Bulgaria on October 31st 2011, then the land borders in July 2012. However, France and Germany are refusing to make any commitments on a date to open land borders.

State of play of the different positions in Parliament

With regard to this matter, MEPs put on a united front during the debate on Wednesday October 12th in plenary. The adoption of the resolution should pass without any problem.

British MEP Claude Moraes, spokesperson for the S&D group said, “It is unacceptable that the Council is allowing populism to undermine the very foundations and rules of the EU. [...] This resolution is not just about Bulgaria and Romania; it is a declaration defending the right of all EU citizens to be treated equally.”

This position is shared by the European People’s Party which has a majority in Parliament. “Bulgaria and Romania have quickly and clearly fulfilled all the criteria necessary for a country to join the Schengen Area. The Council should not succumb to populist pressure and should take the necessary measures to enable Europe to welcome them into the ‘Schengen Family’ as soon as possible”, said Simon Busuttil (Malta), member of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE).

As a Dutch MEP, Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA) feels directly implicated and said that “the masquerade has gone on long enough. The right of veto of the Netherlands and Finland on approving the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen Area is obviously nothing more than popularity seeking by two governments who want to satisfy the extremists. They have made their populist points and now must stop blocking this decision.”

Finally, the Romanian Renate Weber (ALDE) has strongly criticised the situation that is affecting her country. “Bulgaria and Romania lost this game not because of how they played but because of political manoeuvring. Technically, both countries are very well prepared but they failed to qualify for the ‘Schengen League’ because some referees decided to move the goalposts mid-game thereby removing any sense of fair play. I have no doubt that this will have serious consequences”, she predicted.


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