Magazine article European Social Policy

Home Affairs Council : Schengen: Sofia and Bucharest Forced to Wait until End of Year

Magazine article European Social Policy

Home Affairs Council : Schengen: Sofia and Bucharest Forced to Wait until End of Year

Article excerpt

Romania and Bulgaria have no choice but to make do with an umpteenth and vague timeframe for their possible admission to the Schengen area, in which controls at intra-European borders no longer exist.

"We will return to the subject at the end of the year," said German Home Affairs Minister Hans-Peter Friederich on his arrival at the Home Affairs Council, on 7 March in Brussels. That verdict was confirmed by the Irish EU Presidency later in the day.

The German minister, whose country is in an election campaign, did not await the meeting to keep the Schengen door closed to Sofia and Bucharest. In an interview a few days earlier, he threatened to veto any attempt to come to a decision or vote, including on the opening of sea and air borders as a first step, as foreseen by the Council, before coming to a decision on land borders.

Romania and Bulgaria have been waiting for two years and their ministers regretted this lack of a decision. But in a context of economic crisis, they stressed the large sums being spent to meet all the accession criteria, such as surveillance of external borders. Their countries fulfil these criteria, as acknowledged by the Commission and Council.

"This is not just a question of technical criteria but also a political matter, including the fight against corruption and reform of the judicial system," argued the German minister. Speaking to the press, he also confused Schengen and free movement of persons, mentioning a risk, with the crisis, of an influx into Germany of poor workers seeking social benefits. …

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