The two Balkan countries will work together to join the borderless area.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 20/03/13
The EU will take up the question of Romania and Bulgaria’s proposed Schengen accession this year. [AFP]
Romania and Bulgaria will joint efforts to meet the conditions for Schengen accession. A new discussion on the issue will take place before the end of the year, the Irish EU presidency said.
"I confirmed with my Bulgarian counterpart to launch an offensive to reach each EU member state, especially Germany, the Netherlands and Finland [to resolve the Schengen issue for Romania and Bulgaria]," Romanian Interior Minister Radu Stroe said at the March 7th meeting in Brussels.
Stroe said the renewed effort will include a proposal for German experts to visit the two countries to assess their readiness to protect their borders.
Germany is concerned with a possible influx of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens, especially Roma, seeking social benefits. Early this year, the association of German cities warned their social system of the budget risks being smothered by more benefit applications from Romanians and Bulgarians.
In addition, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland are concerned that corruption in the two Balkan countries could make the area's external borders volatile once they are admitted. Schengen has no internal borders.
The next mechanism of co-operation and verification report, which is Brussels' method of monitoring progress in the legal system and the fight against organised crime in the two countries, will be an important factor for the two countries to join Schengen.
"Schengen has now become a political issue. As of March 2011 we implemented absolutely all criteria for Schengen. Bulgaria received high assessment at the last EU justice and home affairs council," former Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told local Bulgarian National Radio.
According to Bucharest officials, the EU should have a more resolute position on the Schengen dossier.
"The EU has to clarify how it reacts to the Schengen file or else we end up in a situation in which a purely technical problem is heavily politicised, which can drag on," Lazslo Borbely, foreign affairs committee chairman of the chamber of deputies in the Romanian parliament, told SETimes. "The EU should … not relate the [mechanism] conclusions to other decisions in Brussels which could impact the Schengen file.
Borbely also called for a "strong lobby, a concerted, unitary strategy on the part of the Romanian central institutions," so the country finally joins Schengen.
But some disagreed. The country should clean up its mess before taking further action, such as the diplomatic campaigns mentioned by Stroe, one analyst said.
"We did a similar campaign for about two years to no avail. Officials should understand that it is what goes on inside the [mechanism] that directly affects the Schengen accession," Cristian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Centre for European Policies, told SETimes.